A New TALE for Genetics Researchers
Many of the genetic engineering techniques in the researcher’s toolkit are time consuming, expensive, and often imprecise. HSCI Principal Faculty member, Paola Arlotta, PhD, has developed a new method that promises to overcome all three of these common shortfalls. Arlotta’s method uses a set of naturally occurring DNA targeting proteins called transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs), proteins secreted by the plant pathogen Xanthomonas sp. to activate gene expression in hosts. TALEs have a unique structure that is specifically associated with their individual DNA binding sites, making them a promising tool for biological system interrogation. But the very structure that makes TALEs interesting has presented a hurdle in customization. Arlotta’s team provides a new technique that not only overcomes this problem, but is also simple, scalable, and economical. The team went on to show that TALEs, while native to plant systems, can also work within mammalian cells and can be customized to target most DNA sequences of interest. While more work is necessary to tease out the nuances of TALE activity, Arlotta and her team have provided the research community with a new repertoire of programmable and precise genome engineering technologies.
Zhang, F., Cong, L., Lodato, S., Kosuri, S., Church, G., Arlotta, P. (2011) Efficient construction of sequence-specific TAL effectors for modulating mammalian transcription. Nature Biotechnology Epub 2011 January 19.