Researchers develop editing toolkit for customizing zebrafish genomes

Mayo Clinic researchers and an international team of scientists have developed a highly-efficient means of editing zebrafish genomes for research purposes, eliminating a bottleneck that has stymied biomedical scientists from using the fish as a model for human disease. The details appear online today in the journal Nature.

For many researchers, zebrafish are becoming the model of choice for . However, the inability to efficiently target has delayed their use by some. The Mayo team used an improved variant of artificial transcription activator-like effector nucleases, or TALENs, to provide a new approach.

"By using genetic engineering tools called TALENs and to make defined changes in the genomes of our fish, we are able to make small changes (just a few nucleotides) as well as add a specific sequence for biological applications," says Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., senior author and head of Mayo's zebrafish core facility. "This is the first time we've been able to make custom changes to the zebrafish genome."

Dr. Ekker says this toolkit opens the door to a range of new experiments in zebrafish, including modeling of human disease by introducing small point mutations, designing regulated gene alleles, and developing classical structure/function experiments using an animal model system.

This new approach has implications for other model systems, including mice, rats, flies and worms, and possible applications in .

"To our knowledge, this TALEN toolkit also is the most active described to date," says Dr. Ekker. "This has important implications for the growing TALEN field, whether used in fish or any other cells. We used this higher activity for genome editing applications. We also used it to conduct a series of somatic gene function assessments, opening the door to an array of non-germline experiments in zebrafish."

More information: DOI: 10.1038/nature11537

Related Stories

New research tool targets microRNA expression in zebrafish

Mar 17, 2011

A new research tool for studying microRNA expression in zebrafish will help researchers study the effects of miRNA on the early development of this model organism and better understand developmental and disease mechanisms ...

Recommended for you

Changes in scores of genes contribute to autism risk

22 hours ago

Small differences in as many as a thousand genes contribute to risk for autism, according to a study led by Mount Sinai researchers and the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), and published today in the journal Nature.

Dozens of genes associated with autism in new research

22 hours ago

Two major genetic studies of autism, led in part by UC San Francisco scientists and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows ...

Genetic link to kidney stones identified

Oct 29, 2014

A new breakthrough could help kidney stone sufferers get an exact diagnosis and specific treatment after genetic links to the condition were identified.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.