Issue Date: July 28, 2008
Antibiotic Boosts RNA Interference
An FDA-approved antibiotic makes the gene-silencing technique known as RNA interference (RNAi) more effective in the laboratory, according to a new report (Nat. Biotechnol., DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1481). The small-molecule RNAi booster, a fluoroquinolone antimicrobial called enoxacin, may help scientists learn more about how RNAi machinery works. A multi-institution team led by Peng Jin of Emory University discovered this trait of enoxacin by using a cell-based assay that can detect enhancers and inhibitors of gene silencing. RNAi enhancement is not a general property of fluoroquinolones, the authors write, since most other variants had little to no effect on gene silencing. They propose that enoxacin works by facilitating the interaction between specialized RNAs and a part of the protein complex involved in silencing. Outside experts say that enoxacin could theoretically lower the needed doses of therapeutic RNAs, thereby reducing the chance of side effects, but they emphasize that more work is needed to verify that possibility. Emory has licensed the technology to Effigene Pharmaceuticals, an Atlanta-based company cofounded by Jin that focuses on RNAi technology for studying and treating diseases.
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