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Team determines structure of a molecular machine that targets viral DNA for destruction
Date:8/7/2014

nd Ryan is one of a few people in the world capable of interpreting this data," Wiedenheft said.

To help determine the structure, Wiedenheft sent Jackson to Duke University for a biannual meeting on X-ray crystallography. At the meeting, Jackson sat between "two of the greatest minds in the field of X-ray crystallography" Randy Read from the University of Cambridge and Thomas Terwilliger from Los Alamos National Lab -- whose expertise facilitated the computational analysis of the data, which was critical for determining the structure.

"The structure of this biological machine is conceptually similar to an engineer's blueprint, and it explains how each of the parts in this complex assemble into a functional complex that efficiently identifies viral DNA when it enters the cell," Wiedenheft said. "This surveillance machine consists of 12 different parts and each part of the machine has a distinct job. If we're missing one part of the machine, it doesn't work."

Understanding how these machines work is leading to unanticipated new innovations in medicine and biotechnology and agriculture. These CRISPR-associated machines are programmable nucleases (molecular scissors) that are now being exploited for precisely altering the DNA sequence of almost any cell type of interest.

"In nature these immune system evolved to protect bacteria form viruses, but we are now repurposing these systems to cut viral DNA out of human cells infected with HIV. You can think of this as a form of DNA surgery. Therapies that were unimaginable may be possible in the future," Wiedenheft said.

"We know the genetic basis for many plant, animal, and human diseases, and these CRISRP-associated nucleases are now being used in research settings to surgically remove or repair defective genes," Wiedenheft said. "This technology is revolutionizing how molecular genetics is done and MSU has a large group of researchers that are at the cutting edge of this te
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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