Small RNA-directed DNA elimination: the molecular mechanism and its potential for genome editing

Carolien Bastiaanssen, Chirlmin Joo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Transposable elements have both detrimental and beneficial effects on their host genome. Tetrahymena is a unicellular eukaryote that deals with transposable elements in a unique way. It has a separate somatic and germline genome in two nuclei in a single cell. During sexual reproduction, a small RNA directed system compares the germline and somatic genome to identify transposable elements and related sequences. These are subsequently marked by heterochromatin and excised. In this Review, current knowledge of this system and the gaps therein are discussed. Additionally, the possibility to exploit the Tetrahymena machinery for genome editing and its advantages over the widely used CRISPR-Cas9 system will be explored. While the bacterial derived CRISPR-Cas9 has difficulty to access eukaryotic chromatin, Tetrahymena proteins are adept at acting in a chromatin context. Furthermore, Tetrahymena based gene therapy in humans might be a safer alternative to Cas9 because the latter can trigger an immune response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1540-1545
Number of pages6
JournalRNA biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • dna elimination
  • genome editing
  • Small RNA
  • tetrahymena
  • tpb2p
  • twi1p


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