NC State develops more precise genetic 'off switches'

Oct 28, 2010

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found a way to "cage" genetic off switches in such a way that they can be activated when exposed to UV light. Their technology gives scientists a more precise way to control and study gene function in localized areas of developing organisms.

The off switches, called morpholino oligonucleotides, are like short snippets of DNA that, when introduced into cells, bind to target RNA molecules, effectively turning off specific genes. Morpholinos have been used as genetic switches in many animal models, including the zebrafish embryo. However, morpholinos are distributed throughout dividing cells in a developing embryo, thereby turning off the specific gene everywhere. Moreover, they are active right after injection, silencing the targeted gene throughout development of the organism. Such uncontrolled genetic disruption makes studying tissue-specific and time-specific gene function difficult.

Dr. Alex Deiters, associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Jeffrey Yoder, associate professor of molecular biomedical sciences, and a team of NC State researchers developed a new methodology to turn off genes at a specific time and in a specific region of an organism. Deiters' team devised a way to synthesize morpholinos that would only bind with after a brief exposure to UV light, effectively "caging" the morpholino and providing a method for precisely controlling the genetic off switch. Yoder's team then tested the new photo-caged morpholinos in a zebrafish model and confirmed that they performed as expected: the caged morpholinos did not disrupt gene function unless the were briefly exposed to .

The researchers' results appear online in the .

Explore further: A new synthetic amino acid for an emerging class of drugs

More information: "Photocaged Morpholino Oligomers for the Light-Regulation of Gene Function in Zebrafish and Xenopus Embryos" Authors: Alexander Deiters, R. Aaron Garner, Hrvoje Lusic, Jeane M. Govan, Mike Dush, Nanette M. Nascone-Yoder, and Jeffrey A. Yoder, NC State University Published: online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Deadly genetic disease prevented before birth in zebrafish

Mar 20, 2008

By injecting a customized "genetic patch" into early stage fish embryos, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to correct a genetic mutation so the embryos developed normally.

Zebrafish to shed light on human mitochondrial diseases

Sep 13, 2007

Zebrafish can now be used to study COX deficiencies in humans, a discovery that gives scientists an unprecedented window to view the earliest stages of mitochondrial impairments that lead to potentially fatal metabolic disorders, ...

Scientists achieve first rewire of genetic switches

Jan 25, 2010

Researchers in Manchester have successfully carried out the first rewire of genetic switches, creating what could be a vital tool for the development of new drugs and even future gene therapies.

Recommended for you

A new synthetic amino acid for an emerging class of drugs

Aug 31, 2014

Swiss scientists have developed a new amino acid that can be used to modify the 3-D structure of therapeutic peptides. Insertion of the amino acid into bioactive peptides enhanced their binding affinity up to 40-fold. Peptides ...

Protein glue shows potential for use with biomaterials

Aug 28, 2014

Researchers at the University of Milan in Italy have shown that a synthetic protein called AGMA1 has the potential to promote the adhesion of brain cells in a laboratory setting. This could prove helpful ...

User comments : 0