Custom-designed molecular scissors for site-specific manipulation of the plant and mammalian genomes.

Karthikeyan Kandavelou, Srinivasan Chandrasegaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are custom-designed molecular scissors, engineered to cut at specific DNA sequences. ZFNs combine the zinc finger proteins (ZFPs) with the nonspecific cleavage domain of the FokI restriction enzyme. The DNA-binding specificity of ZFNs can be easily altered experimentally. This easy manipulation of the ZFN recognition specificity enables one to deliver a targeted double-strand break (DSB) to a genome. The targeted DSB stimulates local gene targeting by several orders of magnitude at that specific cut site via homologous recombination (HR). Thus, ZFNs have become an important experimental tool to make site-specific and permanent alterations to genomes of not only plants and mammals but also of many other organisms. Engineering of custom ZFNs involves many steps. The first step is to identify a ZFN site at or near the chosen chromosomal target within the genome to which ZFNs will bind and cut. The second step is to design and/or select various ZFP combinations that will bind to the chosen target site with high specificity and affinity. The DNA coding sequence for the designed ZFPs are then assembled by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using oligonucleotides. The third step is to fuse the ZFP constructs to the FokI cleavage domain. The ZFNs are then expressed as proteins by using the rabbit reticulocyte in vitro transcription/translation system and the protein products assayed for their DNA cleavage specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-636
Number of pages20
JournalMethods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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