Biotech Updates

Engineering Gene-editing Protein Awarded as Method of the Year

January 13, 2012

Two years ago, Iowa State University scientist Adam Bogdanove and colleagues discovered how a certain type of protein from plant pathogenic bacteria find and attach specific sequences in plant genomes. The fused proteins are referred to as TAL effector nucleases (TALENs). Thereafter, a number of scientists have used TALENs to better understand gene function in plant and animal systems, particularly in improving livestock and plant traits, as well as treatment of genetic disorders. Thus, the engineering of nucleases was awarded by the journal Nature as the 2011 Method of the Year.

As follow up to Bogdanove's study, his team and researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have determined the three dimensional structure of TAL effector attached to DNA using a unique combination of traditional X-ray crystallography and novel computer-based modeling method. With the help of the 3D structure, scientists can now dig more information about the biochemistry that explains how TAL effectors could attach to specific DNA sequences. This would also help them target the proteins in different areas in a genome to predict and prevent unintended binding to off-target sites. According to Bogdanove, the structure of the TAL effectors attached to DNA is pleasing to the eye even in basic biology point of view. The structure is unique that there's nothing else in nature that looks similar to it.

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