Thousands of Programmable DNA-Cutters Found in Algae, Snails, and Other Organisms; New Research Finds RNA-Guided Enzymes Called “Fanzors” Are Widespread Among Eukaryotic Organisms

Cryo-EM map of a Fanzor protein in complex with ωRNA and its target DNA. (Image credit: Zhang lab).
A diverse set of species, from snails to algae to amoebas, make programmable DNA-cutting enzymes called Fanzors — and a new study from scientists at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research has identified thousands of them. Fanzors are RNA-guided enzymes that can be programmed to cut DNA at specific sites, much like the bacterial enzymes that power the widely used gene-editing system known as CRISPR. The newly recognized diversity of natural Fanzor enzymes, reported September 27, 2023 in the journal Science Advances, gives scientists an extensive set of programmable enzymes that might be adapted into new tools for research or medicine. The open-access article is titled “Programmable RNA-Guided DNA Endonucleases Are Widespread in Eukaryotes and Their Viruses.” “RNA-guided biology is what lets you make programmable tools that are really easy to use. So the more we can find, the better,” says McGovern Fellow Omar Abudayyeh, PhD, who led the research with McGovern Fellow Jonathan Gootenberg, PhD.
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