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Biotechnology Key Words

Bacteriophage virus

A virus whose host is a bacterium

cDNA

Copy or complementary DNA. DNA without introns (only exons). It is produced using reverse transcriptase

Clone

A genetically identical copy of an organism. This includes cuttings, tubers, grafting, tissue culture but not seed formation

Dideoxynucleotide

Modified bases which when added to a reaction mixture cause chain termination. Used in gene sequencing

DNA chip or microarray

Glass or silicon plate studded with DNA fragments

DNA fingerprinting (profiling)

The process of analysing the DNA of an individual's body tissue or fluids for the purpose of identification. It often includes the process of Southern blotting

DNA polymerase

An enzyme that joins (polymerises) DNA

Gene gun

A technique used to ‘fire’ ‘bullets’ of tungsten or gold coated with a gene into cells

Gene therapy

The transfer of genetic material from one person to another for their medical benefit. The same techniques are used as in any genetic modification

Genetic engineering

The same as genetic modification, but used by speakers and writers who are opposed to the techniques

Genetic modification

Transfer of genetic material from one individual to another. The recipient may or may not be of the same species

Ligase

A enzyme used to join sections of DNA together

Liposome

Spherical membrane similar in structure to cell membranes. Liposomes are used to introduce genetic material into cells

Microsatellites

STR — short tandem repeats. Short sequences (2–8 base pairs) able to repeat up to 100 times. Humans have many microsatellites and the number of repeats varies between people. This is used to gene profile people using PCR

Minisatellites

VNTR — variable number tandem repeats. Repeating sequences of a few tens of bases. The significance of minisatellites is that the patterns in different people or other organisms vary considerably. These can be electrophoresed to identify or fingerprint individuals

Node

The part of the plant stem where stalks, branches, buds and flowers originate

PCR

Polymerase Chain Reaction (gene amplification). A technique for multiplication of DNA

Plasmid

A small circular section of DNA in a bacterium. It contains several thousand bases compared to the millions in bacterial chromosomes

Primer

A short section of RNA used as a starting sequence for PCR or gene sequencing

Recombinant DNA

DNA into which a foreign gene has been inserted

Restriction enzyme

An enzyme that cuts DNA at particular recognition sites of from 4 to 8 bases

Retrovirus

A virus that has RNA and not DNA as its genetic material. To replicate in a cell it must use the enzyme reverse transcriptase

Reverse transcriptase

An enzyme that makes DNA from RNA

Sequencing

The process by which scientists work out the base sequence of genes. This uses dideoxynucleotides and may be done manually or automatically

Southern blotting

A process during genetic profiling whereby a nitrocellulose sheet is placed on top of an electrophoresis gel, and the DNA ia partially transferred to the more stable sheet by placing blotting paper on top of the sheet and drawing the liquid up from the gel

Stem cell

Unspecialised cell that renews itself by dividing. Can develop into specialised tissue. Stem cells are embryonic (derived from embryos) or adult (found in adult tissue)

Tissue culture

Cloning of plants by taking sections of stem, root, leaf or callus and growing them under sterile conditions with the help of hormones and growth factors

Transformation

The transfer of plasmids between bacteria. This can happen with mammal cells if they are chemically treated

Transgenesis

The transfer of genetic material from one species to another

Variable DNA

DNA unique to each person. It is variable DNA that is used in DNA fingerprinting

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