Navigation Links
UGA scientists 'hijack' bacterial immune system
Date:1/5/2012

Athens, Ga. The knowledge that bacteria possess adaptable immune systems that protect them from individual viruses and other foreign invaders is relatively new to science, and researchers across the globe are working to learn how these systems function and to apply that knowledge in industry and medicine.

Now, a team of University of Georgia researchers has discovered how to harness this bacterial immune system to selectively target and silence genes. The finding, published today in the early online edition of the journal Molecular Cell, reveals a powerful new tool that has far-reaching implications for biotechnology and biomedical research.

"Scientists study bacteria and other microorganisms to understand essential life processes as well as to improve their use in the safe production of foods, biofuels and pharmaceuticals, and to fight those that cause disease," said Michael Terns, a professor in the departments of biochemistry and molecular biology, and genetics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "And now we have a new way to engineer bacteria to decrease or even eliminate the expression of the genes of our choosing."

The bacterial immune system consists of two components. The first is an RNA (a molecule that, like DNA, contains genetic information) that acts as a homing signal to target a virus or another cellular invader. The second component is a complex of proteins that cleaves the invader's genetic material. In a 2009 paper published in the journal Cell, Terns, co-principal investigator Becky Terns and their colleagues were the first to describe how this pathway, known as the Cmr branch of the CRISPR-Cas immune system, works.

In their latest study, the researchers further their understanding of the system and use that in-depth knowledge to essentially hijack the bacterial immune system to direct its homing system to a target of their choosing. Using customized CRISPR RNAs with a modified homing signal, the scientists were able to destroy the message for a protein that is responsible for resistance to the most commonly prescribed family of antibiotics, the beta-lactam antibiotics (that includes, for example, amoxicillin).

Becky Terns, co-leader of the UGA team, explained, "In this study we identified the key features of the RNAs that the system normally uses, and then showed that using this information we can program the system with engineered 'homing' RNAs to destroy new targets. New targets would go beyond viruses and other invaders to include essentially any gene present in the organism being studied. And because we have defined the components of this system, it is possible that we can introduce it into organisms that do not already possess it to further expand the potential industrial and biomedical applications."

She pointed out that most known CRISPR-Cas systems target and cleave DNA. The system that the UGA team studies is the only known example of a CRISPR-Cas system that targets RNA, the molecule that functions as an intermediary between DNA and the proteins that carry out various functions within cells. "Cleaving its own DNA would kill an organism. Silencing specific RNAs allows more sophisticated applications," Terns said.

Researchers could systematically shut down the function of individual genes, for example, to discern the role they play in essential cellular processes. Gene expression could be modified in bacteria that are used to break down plant materials for biofuels or that produce medications, such as insulin, to improve quality and production.

"This detailed biochemical study of a new branch of the CRISPR-Cas defense systemone that targets RNA moleculeshas shed light on a powerful weapon in the bacterial arsenal against invading viruses and mobile elements," said Michael Bender, who oversees RNA processing and function grants at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of General Medical Sciences. "In addition, by defining the key components of the system, Drs. Terns and their colleagues have set the stage for the development of a new tool for targeting specific RNA molecules in diverse cell types, potentially providing biomedical researchers with a valuable new way to analyze gene functions."

Michael Terns added, "The possibility of exploiting the CRISPR-Cas system in biotechnology has been discussed since its discovery, and this work begins to realize some of that enormous potential."


'/>"/>
Contact: Becky Terns
rterns@bmb.uga.edu
706-542-1703
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Jefferson scientists deliver toxic genes to effectively kill pancreatic cancer cells
2. Scientists identify novel inhibitor of human microRNA
3. Argonne scientists peer into heart of compound that may detect chemical, biological weapons
4. MU scientists go green with gold, distribute environmentally friendly nanoparticles
5. Scientists identify gene that may contribute to improved rice yield
6. Scientists discover why a mothers high-fat diet contributes to obesity in her children
7. MU scientists see how HIV matures into an infection
8. Earth scientists keep an eye on Texas
9. Thinking it through: Scientists call for policy to guide biofuels industry toward sustainability
10. Scientists identify a molecule that coordinates the movement of cells
11. Scientists Find new migratory patterns for Mediterranean and Western Atlantic bluefin tuna
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/14/2016)... -- NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a ... airing of a new series of commercials on Time Warner ... st .  The commercials will air on Bloomberg TV, Fox ... Street show. --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the ... announces the airing of a new series of commercials on ...
(Date:3/11/2016)... 11, 2016 --> ... report "Image Recognition Market by Technology (Pattern Recognition), by ... by Deployment Type (On-Premises and Cloud), by Industry Vertical ... by MarketsandMarkets, the global market is expected to grow ... Billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 19.1%. ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... YORK , March 9, 2016 This ... and future states of the RNA Sequencing (RNA Seq) ... segments such as instruments, tools and reagents, data analysis, ... Analyze various segments of the RNA-Sequencing market such as ... services Identify the main factors affecting each segment and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/23/2016)... ... May 23, 2016 , ... RoviSys, ... services based in Aurora, Ohio, has broken ground on a new building in ... Triangle Park area, this new location solidifies a commitment to business in the ...
(Date:5/20/2016)... ... , ... Kablooe Design, a leading provider of product design and development services ... the business. “We have worked hard to build long-term relationships,” says President and CEO, ... honor of serving their product design and development needs through the years.” , Kablooe ...
(Date:5/19/2016)... RIDGE, British Columbia , May 19, 2016 ... AdvanTec Global Innovations Inc. (AGI), based out of ... recently added Greenlane Biogas Ltd. to its existing ... 2-year contract manufacturing agreement. AFS along with its ... Technologies (ABT) is a vertically integrated industrial group ...
(Date:5/19/2016)... May 19, 2016 - I ... orale durante il 52 ° ...    - Le conclusioni dello studio indicano ... pazienti trattati, di cui il 90% presenta una d ... o più. Il settantadue per cento dei pazienti ha riscontrato ...
Breaking Biology Technology: