Researchers Create New Tool for Controlling Genes in Methanogens

Ahmed Dhamad.
Photo Submitted

Ahmed Dhamad.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas researchers have developed an efficient tool for controlling genes in methanogens, a finding that could advance research in fields as diverse as climate change and biofuel production.

The tool, a variation of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, was used to repress targeted gene functions in methanogens without altering any DNA in the gene, said Ahmed Dhamad, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences and author, along with associate professor Daniel Lessner, of the study published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

“We blocked the gene without changing anything in it,” Dhamad said.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a widely used gene-editing tool that uses a protein – Cas9 – to cut and manipulate DNA. Dhamad’s tool used a dead version of the protein, called dCas9, to achieve their results.

It is the first tool available to quickly and efficiently block the expression of multiple genes in methanogens, organisms that are of interest to scientists because they produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas and also a potential source of biofuel.

“This is going to open the door for many people who work on methanogens,” Dhamad said. “Before, the tools that were available were very slow, took a lot of labor and cost, and were not efficient.”

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Bob Whitby, science writer
University Relations
479-575-7704, whitby@uark.edu

Ahmed Dhamad, postdoctoral researcher, Biological Sciences
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-7704, adhamad@uark.edu

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