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Science. 2011 Sep 30;333(6051):1843-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1204094.

TAL effectors: customizable proteins for DNA targeting.

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Department of Plant Pathology, 351 Bessey Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA.


Generating and applying new knowledge from the wealth of available genomic information is hindered, in part, by the difficulty of altering nucleotide sequences and expression of genes in living cells in a targeted fashion. Progress has been made in engineering DNA binding domains to direct proteins to particular sequences for mutagenesis or manipulation of transcription; however, achieving the requisite specificities has been challenging. Transcription activator-like (TAL) effectors of plant pathogenic bacteria contain a modular DNA binding domain that appears to overcome this challenge. Comprising tandem, polymorphic amino acid repeats that individually specify contiguous nucleotides in DNA, this domain is being deployed in DNA targeting for applications ranging from understanding gene function in model organisms to improving traits in crop plants to treating genetic disorders in people.

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