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Programmable DNA scissors found for bacterial immune system
Date:6/28/2012

Genetic engineers and genomics researchers should welcome the news from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) where an international team of scientists has discovered a new and possibly more effective means of editing genomes. This discovery holds potentially big implications for advanced biofuels and therapeutic drugs, as genetically modified microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, are expected to play a key role in the green chemistry production of these and other valuable chemical products.

Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division and professor at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, helped lead the team that identified a double-RNA structure responsible for directing a bacterial protein to cleave foreign DNA at specific nucleotide sequences. Furthermore, the research team found that it is possible to program the protein with a single RNA to enable cleavage of essentially any DNA sequence.

"We've discovered the mechanism behind the RNA-guided cleavage of double-stranded DNA that is central to the bacterial acquired immunity system," says Doudna, who holds appointments with UC Berkeley's Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Department of Chemistry, and is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). "Our results could provide genetic engineers with a new and promising alternative to artificial enzymes for gene targeting and genome editing in bacteria and other cell types."

Doudna is one of two corresponding authors of a paper in the journal Science describing this work titled "A programmable dual RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity." The second corresponding author is Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine at Sweden's Ume University. Other co-authors of the paper were Martin Jinek, Krzysztof Chylinski, Ines Fonfara and Michael Hauer.

Bacterial and archaeon
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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