Transcription factor-like effectors (TALEs)

Ubud, Bali by Mee Lin Woon; DNA Sequence by schulergd. Via stock.chng

Background

Xanthomonas spp. are plant pathogens that modulate their host’s gene expression in order to facilitate infection. They do this using transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs). Two domains are conserved in TALEs: an N-terminus, required for type III secretion into the plant cells; and a C-terminus with transcription factor activity. In the middle is a set of tandem repeats of amino acids, which mediates binding to host DNA.

As the binding and effector domains of TALEs can be customised, the possibility of using them for molecular and synthetic biology has been explored for some time. They have been used to change gene expression in plants, yeast, and even human cells.

TALEs have been adapted by researchers to make TALE nucleases (TALENs) – TALEs attached to a FOK1 nuclease domain. TALENs work in pairs that flank either side of the target site so that the nuclease domains meet at the point of cleavage. The nucleases cause a double-stranded DNA break, which is fixed imperfectly, causing an insertion or deletions.

In May this year, a paper was published demonstrating the huge impact TALEs could have on agriculture. Li et al. prove that transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) can be used to render rice resistant to the major agricultural pathogen, Xanthomonas oryzae pv. Oryzae (Xoo). (more…)

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