Single-stranded oligonucleotides (ssODNs) can be used to direct the exchange of a single nucleotide or the repair of a single base within the coding region of a gene in a process that is known, generically, as gene editing. These molecules are composed of either all DNA residues or a mixture of RNA and DNA bases and utilize inherent metabolic functions to execute the genetic alteration within the context of a chromosome. The mechanism of action of gene editing is now being elucidated as well as an understanding of its regulatory circuitry, work that has been particularly important in establishing a foundation for designing effective gene editing strategies in plants. Double-strand DNA breakage and the activation of the DNA damage response pathway play key roles in determining the frequency with which gene editing activity takes place. Cellular regulators respond to such damage and their action impacts the success or failure of a particular nucleotide exchange reaction. A consequence of such activation is the natural slowing of replication fork progression, which naturally creates a more open chromatin configuration, thereby increasing access of the oligonucleotide to the DNA template. Herein, how critical reaction parameters influence the effectiveness of gene editing is discussed. Functional interrelationships between DNA damage, the activation of DNA response pathways and the stalling of replication forks are presented in detail as potential targets for increasing the frequency of gene editing by ssODNs in plants and plant cells.
Keywords: gene editing; molecular genetics; single-stranded oligonucleotides.
© 2015 Society for Experimental Biology, Association of Applied Biologists and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.