center for systems

& synthetic biology

an NIGMS national systems biology center


Building RNA Scaffolds for CRISPR Tools

December 18, 2014

In a recent study published in Cell, researchers in the lab of Center Director Wendell Lim and collaborators have developed a novel means of regulating gene expression in yeast and human cells.

Zalatan et al took advantage of the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat) technology which uses a short guide RNA to direct enzymatic action towards a specific sequence of DNA. Exploiting the ease of engineering of RNAs and their modularity, they were able to design and implement modifications to these small guide RNAs to make scaffolds that additionally recruit designated effector proteins to either enhance or repress gene expression at a given locus. In addition to the ability to tune gene expression of a single gene, this method, when applied to multiple genes simultaneously, could be extended for tunable control and engineering of a larger network or to rewire cell pathways with strong implications for use in biotechnological or therapeutic applications.