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  1. Transformation (genetics)
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In July she spent a week hiking through the mountains. In early August, Karni developed a low fever, headache, and mild muscle aches, and she felt a bit fatigued. Not thinking much of it, she took some ibuprofen to combat her symptoms and vowed to get more rest.

The science of using living systems to benefit humankind is called biotechnology. Technically speaking, the domestication of plants and animals through farming and breeding practices is a type of biotechnology. Genetic engineering involves the use of recombinant DNA technology , the process by which a DNA sequence is manipulated in vitro, thus creating recombinant DNA molecules that have new combinations of genetic material. The recombinant DNA is then introduced into a host organism.

If the DNA that is introduced comes from a different species, the host organism is now considered to be transgenic. The insulin gene from humans was inserted into a plasmid. This recombinant DNA plasmid was then inserted into bacteria. As a result, these transgenic microbes are able to produce and secrete human insulin. Recall that these mechanisms are examples of horizontal gene transfer —the transfer of genetic material between cells of the same generation.

In this example, the human insulin gene is inserted into a bacterial plasmid. This recombinant plasmid can then be used to transform bacteria, which gain the ability to produce the insulin protein. Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen first demonstrated the complete molecular cloning process in when they successfully cloned genes from the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis into a bacterial plasmid that was then introduced into the bacterial host Escherichia coli. Molecular cloning is a set of methods used to construct recombinant DNA and incorporate it into a host organism; it makes use of a number of molecular tools that are derived from microorganisms.


In recombinant DNA technology, DNA molecules are manipulated using naturally occurring enzymes derived mainly from bacteria and viruses. The creation of recombinant DNA molecules is possible due to the use of naturally occurring restriction endonucleases restriction enzymes , bacterial enzymes produced as a protection mechanism to cut and destroy foreign cytoplasmic DNA that is most commonly a result of bacteriophage infection.

Stewart Linn and Werner Arber discovered restriction enzymes in their s studies of how E. Today, we use restriction enzymes extensively for cutting DNA fragments that can then be spliced into another DNA molecule to form recombinant molecules. Each restriction enzyme cuts DNA at a characteristic recognition site , a specific, usually palindromic, DNA sequence typically between four to six base pairs in length. A palindrome is a sequence of letters that reads the same forward as backward.

A restriction enzyme recognizes the DNA palindrome and cuts each backbone at identical positions in the palindrome. Molecules with complementary sticky ends can easily anneal , or form hydrogen bonds between complementary bases, at their sticky ends. The annealing step allows hybridization of the single-stranded overhangs.

Transformation (genetics)

Hybridization refers to the joining together of two complementary single strands of DNA. Blunt ends can also attach together, but less efficiently than sticky ends due to the lack of complementary overhangs facilitating the process. In either case, ligation by DNA ligase can then rejoin the two sugar-phosphate backbones of the DNA through covalent bonding, making the molecule a continuous double strand. This is known as a palindrome. The cutting of the DNA by the restriction enzyme at the sites indicated by the black arrows produces DNA fragments with sticky ends.

Another piece of DNA cut with the same restriction enzyme could attach to one of these sticky ends, forming a recombinant DNA molecule. After restriction digestion, genes of interest are commonly inserted into plasmids , small pieces of typically circular, double-stranded DNA that replicate independently of the bacterial chromosome see Unique Characteristics of Prokaryotic Cells.

Some plasmid vectors contain genes that confer antibiotic resistance ; these resistance genes allow researchers to easily find plasmid-containing colonies by plating them on media containing the corresponding antibiotic.

Detail for CIP Code 26.0802

The antibiotic kills all host cells that do not harbor the desired plasmid vector, but those that contain the vector are able to survive and grow. Arrows indicate the directions in which the genes are transcribed. Note the polylinker site, containing multiple unique restriction enzyme recognition sites, found within the lacZ reporter gene. Also note the ampicillin amp resistance gene encoded on the plasmid. Plasmid vectors used for cloning typically have a polylinker site , or multiple cloning site MCS.

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A polylinker site is a short sequence containing multiple unique restriction enzyme recognition sites that are used for inserting DNA into the plasmid after restriction digestion of both the DNA and the plasmid. Having these multiple restriction enzyme recognition sites within the polylinker site makes the plasmid vector versatile, so it can be used for many different cloning experiments involving different restriction enzymes.

This polylinker site is often found within a reporter gene , another gene sequence artificially engineered into the plasmid that encodes a protein that allows for visualization of DNA insertion. The reporter gene allows a researcher to distinguish host cells that contain recombinant plasmids with cloned DNA fragments from host cells that only contain the non-recombinant plasmid vector. The most common reporter gene used in plasmid vectors is the bacterial lacZ gene encoding beta-galactosidase, an enzyme that naturally degrades lactose but can also degrade a colorless synthetic analog X-gal , thereby producing blue colonies on X-gal—containing media.

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The lacZ reporter gene is disabled when the recombinant DNA is spliced into the plasmid. Because the LacZ protein is not produced when the gene is disabled, X-gal is not degraded and white colonies are produced, which can then be isolated.

Course Descriptions

In addition to these features, some plasmids come pre-digested and with an enzyme linked to the linearized plasmid to aid in ligation after the insertion of foreign DNA fragments. Click for a larger image. The steps involved in molecular cloning using bacterial transformation are outlined in this graphic flowchart. The most commonly used mechanism for introducing engineered plasmids into a bacterial cell is transformation , a process in which bacteria take up free DNA from their surroundings.

Some bacteria, such as Bacillus spp. However, not all bacteria are naturally competent. In most cases, bacteria must be made artificially competent in the laboratory by increasing the permeability of the cell membrane.

Biology & Biotechnology Courses | WPI - WPI

This can be achieved through chemical treatments that neutralize charges on the cell membrane or by exposing the bacteria to an electric field that creates microscopic pores in the cell membrane. These methods yield chemically competent or electrocompetent bacteria, respectively. Following the transformation protocol, bacterial cells are plated onto an antibiotic-containing medium to inhibit the growth of the many host cells that were not transformed by the plasmid conferring antibiotic resistance. A technique called blue-white screening is then used for lacZ -encoding plasmid vectors such as pUC Blue colonies have a functional beta-galactosidase enzyme because the lacZ gene is uninterrupted, with no foreign DNA inserted into the polylinker site.

These colonies typically result from the digested, linearized plasmid religating to itself. However, white colonies lack a functional beta-galactosidase enzyme, indicating the insertion of foreign DNA within the polylinker site of the plasmid vector, thus disrupting the lacZ gene. Thus, white colonies resulting from this blue-white screening contain plasmids with an insert and can be further screened to characterize the foreign DNA. The bacterial process of conjugation see How Asexual Prokaryotes Achieve Genetic Diversity can also be manipulated for molecular cloning.

F plasmids , or fertility plasmids, are transferred between bacterial cells through the process of conjugation. Recombinant DNA can be transferred by conjugation when bacterial cells containing a recombinant F plasmid are mixed with compatible bacterial cells lacking the plasmid. F plasmids encode a surface structure called an F pilus that facilitates contact between a cell containing an F plasmid and one without an F plasmid.

On contact, a cytoplasmic bridge forms between the two cells and the F-plasmid-containing cell replicates its plasmid, transferring a copy of the recombinant F plasmid to the recipient cell.