Professor’s research recognized national

Kelly Madsen

Adam Bogdanove, professor of plant pathology and microbiology, has learned his research has been chosen as part of Nature Journal’s “Method of the Year” 2011 award.

The Method Award is given for genome editing with engineered nucleases, and Bogdanove’s work with transcription activator-like effector nucleases is one of two forms of engineered nuclease genome editing.

In essence, TAL effectors were discovered as proteins in rice bacteria that can be fused with DNA modifying enzymes to manipulate genes and gene functions.

Iowa State is home to 2 of about 12 labs worldwide pioneering research in TAL effector nuclease as a method of gene editing.

In addition to Bogdanove’s advances in genomic editing, Bing Yang, assistant professor of genetics and cell biology, and his research team generated much of the raw material behind the understanding of TAL effector proteins.

“Between my lab and Bing’s lab, it marks Iowa State as a center of excellence for TAL effector-related research,” Bogdanove said. “The pioneering work in an area of such great potential impact is very positive for the university.”

Ultimately, TAL effectors have the ability to target and tailor changes in the genome, which allows researchers to develop more precise understanding of genetics.

Yang said that TAL effector nucleases cannot only create specific mutations but also swap in and repair DNA segments very precisely. This editing technology has potential in medical research to replace defective genes with stem cells.

“Gene and cell therapy is one of the fields that TAL effectors have generated the most excitement in,” Bogdanove said. “These are potentially earthshaking developments.”

In furthering understanding of the structure of TAL effector nucleases, Bogdanove collaborated with the Fred Hutchinson Research Center to create a computer model of the TAL effector nuclease protein binding to DNA. This model is to be published in the upcoming issue of the journal Science.

Bogdanove and colleague Dan Voytas, former ISU professor and current professor at the University of Minnesota, created a kit with genetic constructs for researchers anywhere to express the TAL effector protein specific to their research.

Nearly 300 top institutes and laboratories worldwide have ordered and begun various forms of research using these kits. In the labs using the kits, TAL effector nuclease effectiveness in model systems, including zebra fish and C. elegans, and in mediated gene replacements in human stem cells have begun development within six months of the breakthrough in TAL effectors.

“People have really picked up on this. Everyone wants to try it,” Bogdanove said.