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Crop Biotech Update

Scripps Research Institute Finds Protein that Can Silence Genes

May 11, 2012

Three-dimensional atomic structure of a human protein which is mainly involved in regulating the activities of cells has been identified by the Scripps Research Institute. This new finding can be helpful in understanding a process called RNA-silencing and use it to treat diseases.

The update on RNA-silencing focused on Argonaute2, which is a protein that can switch-off a gene by intercepting and slicing the gene's RNA transcripts before they are translated as proteins. RNA-silencing requires an Argonaute protein and guide RNA called microRNA. The guide RNA inserts into a space on Argonaute and serves as a target recognition device. The mRNA, thus, carries the Argonaute to its target.

Though Argonaute2 is not the only type of Argonaute protein, it appears to be the only Argonaute protein capable of terminating target RNA directly. Further studies of this new finding aims to use it to find "therapeutic weapons" against disease-causing genes or a cell's overactive guide RNA.

Read more about the gene-silencing protein at http://www.scripps.edu/news/press/2012/20120426mcrae.html.