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Biotechnol Adv. 2005 Nov;23(7-8):431-69.

Targeted modification of mammalian genomes.

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Molecular Recognition Group, Hannah Research Institute, Ayr, KA6 5HL, UK.


The stable and site-specific modification of mammalian genomes has a variety of applications in biomedicine and biotechnology. Here we outline two alternative approaches that can be employed to achieve this goal: homologous recombination (HR) or site-specific recombination. Homologous recombination relies on sequence similarity (or rather identity) of a piece of DNA that is introduced into a host cell and the host genome. In most cell types, the frequency of homologous recombination is markedly lower than the frequency of random integration. Especially in somatic cells, homologous recombination is an extremely rare event. However, recent strategies involving the introduction of DNA double-strand breaks, triplex forming oligonucleotides or adeno-associated virus can increase the frequency of homologous recombination. Site-specific recombination makes use of enzymes (recombinases, transposases, integrases), which catalyse DNA strand exchange between DNA molecules that have only limited sequence homology. The recognition sites of site-specific recombinases (e.g. Cre, Flp or PhiC31 integrase) are usually 30-50 bp. In contrast, retroviral integrases only require a specific dinucleotide sequence to insert the viral cDNA into the host genome. Depending on the individual enzyme, there are either innumerable or very few potential target sites for a particular integrase/recombinase in a mammalian genome. A number of strategies have been utilised successfully to alter the site-specificity of recombinases. Therefore, site-specific recombinases provide an attractive tool for the targeted modification of mammalian genomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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