North Carolina State University researchers employ light-activated molecules to trigger and control gene expression. This precision method developed by the researchers facilitates efficient study of gene function that will contribute to specific treatment solution for diseases such as cancer.
Gene transcription can be avoided when triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) bind to double-stranded DNA. Dr. Alex Deiters, a NC State chemist intended to devise a method to control TFOs more precisely, and also to control the transcription of certain genes.
A light-activated "cage" is integrated to a TFO. The cage is detached on ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, the TFO will freely bind with DNA and the transcription of specific genes will be inhibited.
Deiters says that transcription activity is 100 % in the absence of light. In contrast, upon light activation, the gene expression will be reduced to 25 %.
This process was then standardized by integrating caged inhibitor strand to the TFO. When UV light is not present, the TFO normally binds to DNA and gene expression will be inhibited. Upon UV light exposure, activation of the caged inhibitor takes place, preventing TFO from binding with DNA, thereby activating gene transcription.
According to Deiters, a tool enabling the light-activation of genetic transcription will be developed. Having temporal and spatial control over gene expression, the researchers can study the behavior of particular genes within a specific environment, in a more improved way.