Arc – An endogenous neuronal retrovirus?
USING ARC PROTEIN AS A MEANS FOR RNA DELIVERY TO CELLS
A disruptive nucleic acid delivery platform technology is being developed that harnesses the unique properties of Arc protein. Originally identified as essential for storing information in the brain, it also has an important role in cell-to-cell communication. The Arc protein’s unusual property of co-assembling self RNA with arc protein resembles viral capsid like structures that deliver the genetic cargo from cell to cell. The technology is being optimized for transfer of any genetic material as a therapeutic payload without dependency on the cell type.
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The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain and has been implicated in various neurological disorders. However, little is known about Arc’s evolutionary origins. Recent studies suggest that mammalian Arc originated from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsyretrotransposons, which are also ancestral to retroviruses. In particular, Arc contains homology to the Gag polyprotein that forms the viral capsid and is essential for viral infectivity. This surprising connection raises the intriguing possibility that Arc may share molecular characteristics of retroviruses.