- Pomona College
Bacteria and archaea possess adaptive immunity against foreign genetic elements using CRISPR–Cas systems. Upon infection, new foreign DNA sequences are captured and integrated into the host CRISPR locus as new spacers. The CRISPR locus is transcribed and processed to generate mature CRISPR RNAs, each encoding a unique spacer sequence. Each crRNA associates with Cas effector proteins that use crRNAs as guides to silence foreign genetic elements that match the crRNA sequence. Doudna’s team was the first to describe how this ancient immune system could be programmed to enable precise genome editing in model systems. Currently, they are interested in elucidating the mechanisms underlying CRISPR–Cas immunity, especially in understanding the functions of Cas proteins. In addition, they are working to develop novel CRISPR-based tools for biotechnology applications.
The Doudna lab is exploring multiple aspects of how our cells exert precise control over the production of proteins. For example, cells can produce multiple mRNA isoforms from a single gene by alternative transcription, splicing, and polyadenylation, and in turn, each isoform can be translated differently. Doudna and her group are developing new techniques to investigate this complex interplay.