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Transformation (genetics)

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In this image, a gene from one bacterial cell is moved to another bacterial cell. This process of the second bacterial cell taking up new genetic material is called transformation.
In this image, a gene from one bacterial cell is moved to another bacterial cell. This process of the second bacterial cell taking up new genetic material is called transformation.

In molecular biology and genetics, transformation is the genetic alteration of a cell resulting from the direct uptake and incorporation of exogenous genetic material from its surroundings through the cell membrane(s). For transformation to take place, the recipient bacterium must be in a state of competence, which might occur in nature as a time-limited response to environmental conditions such as starvation and cell density, and may also be induced in a laboratory.[1]

Transformation is one of three processes that lead to horizontal gene transfer, in which exogenous genetic material passes from one bacterium to another, the other two being conjugation (transfer of genetic material between two bacterial cells in direct contact) and transduction (injection of foreign DNA by a bacteriophage virus into the host bacterium).[1] In transformation, the genetic material passes through the intervening medium, and uptake is completely dependent on the recipient bacterium.[1]

As of 2014 about 80 species of bacteria were known to be capable of transformation, about evenly divided between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria; the number might be an overestimate since several of the reports are supported by single papers.[1]

"Transformation" may also be used to describe the insertion of new genetic material into nonbacterial cells, including animal and plant cells; however, because "transformation" has a special meaning in relation to animal cells, indicating progression to a cancerous state, the process is usually called "transfection".[2]

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Molecular biology

Molecular biology

Molecular biology is the branch of biology that seeks to understand the molecular basis of biological activity in and between cells, including biomolecular synthesis, modification, mechanisms, and interactions. The study of chemical and physical structure of biological macromolecules is known as molecular biology.

Molecular genetics

Molecular genetics

Molecular genetics is a sub-field of biology that addresses how differences in the structures or expression of DNA molecules manifests as variation among organisms. Molecular genetics often applies an "investigative approach" to determine the structure and/or function of genes in an organism's genome using genetic screens. The field of study is based on the merging of several sub-fields in biology: classical Mendelian inheritance, cellular biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and biotechnology. Researchers search for mutations in a gene or induce mutations in a gene to link a gene sequence to a specific phenotype. Molecular genetics is a powerful methodology for linking mutations to genetic conditions that may aid the search for treatments/cures for various genetics diseases.

Introduction to genetics

Introduction to genetics

Genetics is the study of genes and tries to explain what they are and how they work. Genes are how living organisms inherit features or traits from their ancestors; for example, children usually look like their parents because they have inherited their parents' genes. Genetics tries to identify which traits are inherited and to explain how these traits are passed from generation to generation.

Cell (biology)

Cell (biology)

The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of life forms. Every cell consists of a cytoplasm enclosed within a membrane, and contains many biomolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA, as well as many small molecules of nutrients and metabolites. The term comes from the Latin word cellula meaning 'small room'.

Exogenous DNA

Exogenous DNA

Exogenous DNA is DNA originating outside the organism of concern or study. Exogenous DNA can be found naturally in the form of partially degraded fragments left over from dead cells. These DNA fragments may then become integrated into the chromosomes of nearby bacterial cells to undergo mutagenesis. This process of altering bacteria is known as transformation. Bacteria may also undergo artificial transformation through chemical and biological processes. The introduction of exogenous DNA into eukaryotic cells is known as transfection. Exogenous DNA can also be artificially inserted into the genome, which revolutionized the process of genetic modification in animals. By microinjecting an artificial transgene into the nucleus of an animal embryo, the exogenous DNA is allowed to merge the cell's existing DNA to create a genetically modified, transgenic animal. The creation of transgenic animals also leads into the study of altering sperm cells with exogenous DNA.

Cell membrane

Cell membrane

The cell membrane is a biological membrane that separates and protects the interior of all cells from the outside environment. The cell membrane consists of a lipid bilayer, made up of two layers of phospholipids with cholesterols interspersed between them, maintaining appropriate membrane fluidity at various temperatures. The membrane also contains membrane proteins, including integral proteins that span the membrane and serve as membrane transporters, and peripheral proteins that loosely attach to the outer (peripheral) side of the cell membrane, acting as enzymes to facilitate interaction with the cell's environment. Glycolipids embedded in the outer lipid layer serve a similar purpose. The cell membrane controls the movement of substances in and out of cells and organelles, being selectively permeable to ions and organic molecules. In addition, cell membranes are involved in a variety of cellular processes such as cell adhesion, ion conductivity, and cell signalling and serve as the attachment surface for several extracellular structures, including the cell wall and the carbohydrate layer called the glycocalyx, as well as the intracellular network of protein fibers called the cytoskeleton. In the field of synthetic biology, cell membranes can be artificially reassembled.

Horizontal gene transfer

Horizontal gene transfer

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) or lateral gene transfer (LGT) is the movement of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms other than by the ("vertical") transmission of DNA from parent to offspring (reproduction). HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms. HGT is influencing scientific understanding of higher order evolution while more significantly shifting perspectives on bacterial evolution.

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation is the transfer of genetic material between bacterial cells by direct cell-to-cell contact or by a bridge-like connection between two cells. This takes place through a pilus. It is a parasexual mode of reproduction in bacteria.

Bacteriophage

Bacteriophage

A bacteriophage, also known informally as a phage, is a duplodnaviria virus that infects and replicates within bacteria and archaea. The term was derived from "bacteria" and the Greek φαγεῖν, meaning "to devour". Bacteriophages are composed of proteins that encapsulate a DNA or RNA genome, and may have structures that are either simple or elaborate. Their genomes may encode as few as four genes and as many as hundreds of genes. Phages replicate within the bacterium following the injection of their genome into its cytoplasm.

Gram-positive bacteria

Gram-positive bacteria

In bacteriology, gram-positive bacteria are bacteria that give a positive result in the Gram stain test, which is traditionally used to quickly classify bacteria into two broad categories according to their type of cell wall.

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria that do not retain the crystal violet stain used in the Gram staining method of bacterial differentiation. They are characterized by their cell envelopes, which are composed of a thin peptidoglycan cell wall sandwiched between an inner cytoplasmic cell membrane and a bacterial outer membrane.

Malignant transformation

Malignant transformation

Malignant transformation is the process by which cells acquire the properties of cancer. This may occur as a primary process in normal tissue, or secondarily as malignant degeneration of a previously existing benign tumor.

History

Transformation in bacteria was first demonstrated in 1928 by the British bacteriologist Frederick Griffith.[3] Griffith was interested in determining whether injections of heat-killed bacteria could be used to vaccinate mice against pneumonia. However, he discovered that a non-virulent strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae could be made virulent after being exposed to heat-killed virulent strains. Griffith hypothesized that some "transforming principle" from the heat-killed strain was responsible for making the harmless strain virulent. In 1944 this "transforming principle" was identified as being genetic by Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty. They isolated DNA from a virulent strain of S. pneumoniae and using just this DNA were able to make a harmless strain virulent. They called this uptake and incorporation of DNA by bacteria "transformation" (See Avery-MacLeod-McCarty experiment)[4] The results of Avery et al.'s experiments were at first skeptically received by the scientific community and it was not until the development of genetic markers and the discovery of other methods of genetic transfer (conjugation in 1947 and transduction in 1953) by Joshua Lederberg that Avery's experiments were accepted.[5]

It was originally thought that Escherichia coli, a commonly used laboratory organism, was refractory to transformation. However, in 1970, Morton Mandel and Akiko Higa showed that E. coli may be induced to take up DNA from bacteriophage λ without the use of helper phage after treatment with calcium chloride solution.[6] Two years later in 1972, Stanley Norman Cohen, Annie Chang and Leslie Hsu showed that CaCl
2
treatment is also effective for transformation of plasmid DNA.[7] The method of transformation by Mandel and Higa was later improved upon by Douglas Hanahan.[8] The discovery of artificially induced competence in E. coli created an efficient and convenient procedure for transforming bacteria which allows for simpler molecular cloning methods in biotechnology and research, and it is now a routinely used laboratory procedure.

Transformation using electroporation was developed in the late 1980s, increasing the efficiency of in-vitro transformation and increasing the number of bacterial strains that could be transformed.[9] Transformation of animal and plant cells was also investigated with the first transgenic mouse being created by injecting a gene for a rat growth hormone into a mouse embryo in 1982.[10] In 1897 a bacterium that caused plant tumors, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, was discovered and in the early 1970s the tumor-inducing agent was found to be a DNA plasmid called the Ti plasmid.[11] By removing the genes in the plasmid that caused the tumor and adding in novel genes, researchers were able to infect plants with A. tumefaciens and let the bacteria insert their chosen DNA into the genomes of the plants.[12] Not all plant cells are susceptible to infection by A. tumefaciens, so other methods were developed, including electroporation and micro-injection.[13] Particle bombardment was made possible with the invention of the Biolistic Particle Delivery System (gene gun) by John Sanford in the 1980s.[14][15][16]

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Frederick Griffith

Frederick Griffith

Frederick Griffith (1877–1941) was a British bacteriologist whose focus was the epidemiology and pathology of bacterial pneumonia. In January 1928 he reported what is now known as Griffith's Experiment, the first widely accepted demonstrations of bacterial transformation, whereby a bacterium distinctly changes its form and function.

Griffith's experiment

Griffith's experiment

Griffith's experiment, reported in 1928 by Frederick Griffith, was the first experiment suggesting that bacteria are capable of transferring genetic information through a process known as transformation. Griffith's findings were followed by research in the late 1930s and early 40s that isolated DNA as the material that communicated this genetic information.

Colin Munro MacLeod

Colin Munro MacLeod

Colin Munro MacLeod was a Canadian-American geneticist. He was one of a trio of scientists who discovered that deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA is responsible for the transformation of the physical characteristics of bacteria, which subsequently led to its identification as the molecule responsible for heredity.

Maclyn McCarty

Maclyn McCarty

Maclyn McCarty was an American geneticist, a research scientist described in 2005 as "the last surviving member of a Manhattan scientific team that overturned medical dogma in the 1940s and became the first to demonstrate that genes were made of DNA." He had worked at Rockefeller University "for more than 60 years." 1994 marked 50 years since this work's release.

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation is the transfer of genetic material between bacterial cells by direct cell-to-cell contact or by a bridge-like connection between two cells. This takes place through a pilus. It is a parasexual mode of reproduction in bacteria.

Joshua Lederberg

Joshua Lederberg

Joshua Lederberg, ForMemRS was an American molecular biologist known for his work in microbial genetics, artificial intelligence, and the United States space program. He was 33 years old when he won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering that bacteria can mate and exchange genes. He shared the prize with Edward Tatum and George Beadle, who won for their work with genetics.

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a Gram-negative, facultative anaerobic, rod-shaped, coliform bacterium of the genus Escherichia that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes (EPEC, ETEC etc.) can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts, and are occasionally responsible for food contamination incidents that prompt product recalls. Most strains do not cause disease in humans and are part of the normal microbiota of the gut; such strains are harmless or even beneficial to humans (although these strains tend to be less studied than the pathogenic ones). For example, some strains of E. coli benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2 or by preventing the colonization of the intestine by pathogenic bacteria. These mutually beneficial relationships between E. coli and humans are a type of mutualistic biological relationship — where both the humans and the E. coli are benefitting each other. E. coli is expelled into the environment within fecal matter. The bacterium grows massively in fresh faecal matter under aerobic conditions for three days, but its numbers decline slowly afterwards.

Lambda phage

Lambda phage

Enterobacteria phage λ is a bacterial virus, or bacteriophage, that infects the bacterial species Escherichia coli. It was discovered by Esther Lederberg in 1950. The wild type of this virus has a temperate life cycle that allows it to either reside within the genome of its host through lysogeny or enter into a lytic phase, during which it kills and lyses the cell to produce offspring. Lambda strains, mutated at specific sites, are unable to lysogenize cells; instead, they grow and enter the lytic cycle after superinfecting an already lysogenized cell.

Helper virus

Helper virus

A helper virus is a virus that allows an otherwise-deficient coinfecting virus to replicate. These can be naturally occurring as with Hepatitis D virus, which requires Hepatitis B virus to coinfect cells in order to replicate. Helper viruses are also commonly used to replicate and spread viral vectors for gene expression and gene therapy.

Douglas Hanahan

Douglas Hanahan

Douglas Hanahan is an American biologist, professor and director emeritus of the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is currently member of the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute.

Molecular cloning

Molecular cloning

Molecular cloning is a set of experimental methods in molecular biology that are used to assemble recombinant DNA molecules and to direct their replication within host organisms. The use of the word cloning refers to the fact that the method involves the replication of one molecule to produce a population of cells with identical DNA molecules. Molecular cloning generally uses DNA sequences from two different organisms: the species that is the source of the DNA to be cloned, and the species that will serve as the living host for replication of the recombinant DNA. Molecular cloning methods are central to many contemporary areas of modern biology and medicine.

Biotechnology

Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the integration of natural sciences and engineering sciences in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells, parts thereof and molecular analogues for products and services. The term biotechnology was first used by Károly Ereky in 1919, meaning the production of products from raw materials with the aid of living organisms.

Definitions

Transformation is one of three forms of horizontal gene transfer that occur in nature among bacteria, in which DNA encoding for a trait passes from one bacterium to another and is integrated into the recipient genome by homologous recombination; the other two are transduction, carried out by means of a bacteriophage, and conjugation, in which a gene is passed through direct contact between bacteria.[1] In transformation, the genetic material passes through the intervening medium, and uptake is completely dependent on the recipient bacterium.[1]

Competence refers to a temporary state of being able to take up exogenous DNA from the environment; it may be induced in a laboratory.[1]

It appears to be an ancient process inherited from a common prokaryotic ancestor that is a beneficial adaptation for promoting recombinational repair of DNA damage, especially damage acquired under stressful conditions. Natural genetic transformation appears to be an adaptation for repair of DNA damage that also generates genetic diversity.[1][17]

Transformation has been studied in medically important Gram-negative bacteria species such as Helicobacter pylori, Legionella pneumophila, Neisseria meningitidis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Haemophilus influenzae and Vibrio cholerae.[18] It has also been studied in Gram-negative species found in soil such as Pseudomonas stutzeri, Acinetobacter baylyi, and Gram-negative plant pathogens such as Ralstonia solanacearum and Xylella fastidiosa.[18] Transformation among Gram-positive bacteria has been studied in medically important species such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus sanguinis and in Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis.[17] It has also been reported in at least 30 species of Pseudomonadota distributed in several different classes.[19] The best studied Pseudomonadota with respect to transformation are the medically important human pathogens Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Helicobacter pylori.[17]

"Transformation" may also be used to describe the insertion of new genetic material into nonbacterial cells, including animal and plant cells; however, because "transformation" has a special meaning in relation to animal cells, indicating progression to a cancerous state, the process is usually called "transfection".[2]

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Horizontal gene transfer

Horizontal gene transfer

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) or lateral gene transfer (LGT) is the movement of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms other than by the ("vertical") transmission of DNA from parent to offspring (reproduction). HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms. HGT is influencing scientific understanding of higher order evolution while more significantly shifting perspectives on bacterial evolution.

Homologous recombination

Homologous recombination

Homologous recombination is a type of genetic recombination in which genetic information is exchanged between two similar or identical molecules of double-stranded or single-stranded nucleic acids.

Bacteriophage

Bacteriophage

A bacteriophage, also known informally as a phage, is a duplodnaviria virus that infects and replicates within bacteria and archaea. The term was derived from "bacteria" and the Greek φαγεῖν, meaning "to devour". Bacteriophages are composed of proteins that encapsulate a DNA or RNA genome, and may have structures that are either simple or elaborate. Their genomes may encode as few as four genes and as many as hundreds of genes. Phages replicate within the bacterium following the injection of their genome into its cytoplasm.

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation

Bacterial conjugation is the transfer of genetic material between bacterial cells by direct cell-to-cell contact or by a bridge-like connection between two cells. This takes place through a pilus. It is a parasexual mode of reproduction in bacteria.

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species, it ranges widely from the number of species to differences within species and can be attributed to the span of survival for a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary.

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria that do not retain the crystal violet stain used in the Gram staining method of bacterial differentiation. They are characterized by their cell envelopes, which are composed of a thin peptidoglycan cell wall sandwiched between an inner cytoplasmic cell membrane and a bacterial outer membrane.

Helicobacter pylori

Helicobacter pylori

Helicobacter pylori, previously known as Campylobacter pylori, is a gram-negative, microaerophilic, spiral (helical) bacterium usually found in the stomach. Its helical shape is thought to have evolved in order to penetrate the mucoid lining of the stomach and thereby establish infection. The bacterium was first identified in 1982 by the Australian doctors Barry Marshall and Robin Warren. H. pylori has been associated with cancer of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue in the stomach, esophagus, colon, rectum, or tissues around the eye, and of lymphoid tissue in the stomach.

Legionella pneumophila

Legionella pneumophila

Legionella pneumophila is a thin, aerobic, pleomorphic, flagellated, non-spore-forming, Gram-negative bacterium of the genus Legionella. L. pneumophila is the primary human pathogenic bacterium in this group and is the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease, also known as legionellosis.

Neisseria meningitidis

Neisseria meningitidis

Neisseria meningitidis, often referred to as meningococcus, is a Gram-negative bacterium that can cause meningitis and other forms of meningococcal disease such as meningococcemia, a life-threatening sepsis. The bacterium is referred to as a coccus because it is round, and more specifically a diplococcus because of its tendency to form pairs.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as gonococcus (singular), or gonococci (plural), is a species of Gram-negative diplococci bacteria isolated by Albert Neisser in 1879. It causes the sexually transmitted genitourinary infection gonorrhea as well as other forms of gonococcal disease including disseminated gonococcemia, septic arthritis, and gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum.

Haemophilus influenzae

Haemophilus influenzae

Haemophilus influenzae is a Gram-negative, non-motile, coccobacillary, facultatively anaerobic, capnophilic pathogenic bacterium of the family Pasteurellaceae. The bacteria are mesophilic and grow best at temperatures between 35 and 37℃.

Gram-positive bacteria

Gram-positive bacteria

In bacteriology, gram-positive bacteria are bacteria that give a positive result in the Gram stain test, which is traditionally used to quickly classify bacteria into two broad categories according to their type of cell wall.

Natural competence and transformation

As of 2014 about 80 species of bacteria were known to be capable of transformation, about evenly divided between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria; the number might be an overestimate since several of the reports are supported by single papers.[1]

Naturally competent bacteria carry sets of genes that provide the protein machinery to bring DNA across the cell membrane(s). The transport of the exogenous DNA into the cells may require proteins that are involved in the assembly of type IV pili and type II secretion system, as well as DNA translocase complex at the cytoplasmic membrane.[20]

Due to the differences in structure of the cell envelope between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, there are some differences in the mechanisms of DNA uptake in these cells, however most of them share common features that involve related proteins. The DNA first binds to the surface of the competent cells on a DNA receptor, and passes through the cytoplasmic membrane via DNA translocase.[21] Only single-stranded DNA may pass through, the other strand being degraded by nucleases in the process. The translocated single-stranded DNA may then be integrated into the bacterial chromosomes by a RecA-dependent process. In Gram-negative cells, due to the presence of an extra membrane, the DNA requires the presence of a channel formed by secretins on the outer membrane. Pilin may be required for competence, but its role is uncertain.[22] The uptake of DNA is generally non-sequence specific, although in some species the presence of specific DNA uptake sequences may facilitate efficient DNA uptake.[23]

Natural transformation

Natural transformation is a bacterial adaptation for DNA transfer that depends on the expression of numerous bacterial genes whose products appear to be responsible for this process.[20][19] In general, transformation is a complex, energy-requiring developmental process. In order for a bacterium to bind, take up and recombine exogenous DNA into its chromosome, it must become competent, that is, enter a special physiological state. Competence development in Bacillus subtilis requires expression of about 40 genes.[24] The DNA integrated into the host chromosome is usually (but with rare exceptions) derived from another bacterium of the same species, and is thus homologous to the resident chromosome.

In B. subtilis the length of the transferred DNA is greater than 1271 kb (more than 1 million bases).[25] The length transferred is likely double stranded DNA and is often more than a third of the total chromosome length of 4215 kb.[26] It appears that about 7-9% of the recipient cells take up an entire chromosome.[27]

The capacity for natural transformation appears to occur in a number of prokaryotes, and thus far 67 prokaryotic species (in seven different phyla) are known to undergo this process.[19]

Competence for transformation is typically induced by high cell density and/or nutritional limitation, conditions associated with the stationary phase of bacterial growth. Transformation in Haemophilus influenzae occurs most efficiently at the end of exponential growth as bacterial growth approaches stationary phase.[28] Transformation in Streptococcus mutans, as well as in many other streptococci, occurs at high cell density and is associated with biofilm formation.[29] Competence in B. subtilis is induced toward the end of logarithmic growth, especially under conditions of amino acid limitation.[30] Similarly, in Micrococcus luteus (a representative of the less well studied Actinomycetota phylum), competence develops during the mid-late exponential growth phase and is also triggered by amino acids starvation.[31][32]

By releasing intact host and plasmid DNA, certain bacteriophages are thought to contribute to transformation.[33]

Transformation, as an adaptation for DNA repair

Competence is specifically induced by DNA damaging conditions. For instance, transformation is induced in Streptococcus pneumoniae by the DNA damaging agents mitomycin C (a DNA cross-linking agent) and fluoroquinolone (a topoisomerase inhibitor that causes double-strand breaks).[34] In B. subtilis, transformation is increased by UV light, a DNA damaging agent.[35] In Helicobacter pylori, ciprofloxacin, which interacts with DNA gyrase and introduces double-strand breaks, induces expression of competence genes, thus enhancing the frequency of transformation[36] Using Legionella pneumophila, Charpentier et al.[37] tested 64 toxic molecules to determine which of these induce competence. Of these, only six, all DNA damaging agents, caused strong induction. These DNA damaging agents were mitomycin C (which causes DNA inter-strand crosslinks), norfloxacin, ofloxacin and nalidixic acid (inhibitors of DNA gyrase that cause double-strand breaks[38]), bicyclomycin (causes single- and double-strand breaks[39]), and hydroxyurea (induces DNA base oxidation[40]). UV light also induced competence in L. pneumophila. Charpentier et al.[37] suggested that competence for transformation probably evolved as a DNA damage response.

Logarithmically growing bacteria differ from stationary phase bacteria with respect to the number of genome copies present in the cell, and this has implications for the capability to carry out an important DNA repair process. During logarithmic growth, two or more copies of any particular region of the chromosome may be present in a bacterial cell, as cell division is not precisely matched with chromosome replication. The process of homologous recombinational repair (HRR) is a key DNA repair process that is especially effective for repairing double-strand damages, such as double-strand breaks. This process depends on a second homologous chromosome in addition to the damaged chromosome. During logarithmic growth, a DNA damage in one chromosome may be repaired by HRR using sequence information from the other homologous chromosome. Once cells approach stationary phase, however, they typically have just one copy of the chromosome, and HRR requires input of homologous template from outside the cell by transformation.[41]

To test whether the adaptive function of transformation is repair of DNA damages, a series of experiments were carried out using B. subtilis irradiated by UV light as the damaging agent (reviewed by Michod et al.[42] and Bernstein et al.[41]) The results of these experiments indicated that transforming DNA acts to repair potentially lethal DNA damages introduced by UV light in the recipient DNA. The particular process responsible for repair was likely HRR. Transformation in bacteria can be viewed as a primitive sexual process, since it involves interaction of homologous DNA from two individuals to form recombinant DNA that is passed on to succeeding generations. Bacterial transformation in prokaryotes may have been the ancestral process that gave rise to meiotic sexual reproduction in eukaryotes (see Evolution of sexual reproduction; Meiosis.)

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Gram-positive bacteria

Gram-positive bacteria

In bacteriology, gram-positive bacteria are bacteria that give a positive result in the Gram stain test, which is traditionally used to quickly classify bacteria into two broad categories according to their type of cell wall.

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria

Gram-negative bacteria are bacteria that do not retain the crystal violet stain used in the Gram staining method of bacterial differentiation. They are characterized by their cell envelopes, which are composed of a thin peptidoglycan cell wall sandwiched between an inner cytoplasmic cell membrane and a bacterial outer membrane.

Cell membrane

Cell membrane

The cell membrane is a biological membrane that separates and protects the interior of all cells from the outside environment. The cell membrane consists of a lipid bilayer, made up of two layers of phospholipids with cholesterols interspersed between them, maintaining appropriate membrane fluidity at various temperatures. The membrane also contains membrane proteins, including integral proteins that span the membrane and serve as membrane transporters, and peripheral proteins that loosely attach to the outer (peripheral) side of the cell membrane, acting as enzymes to facilitate interaction with the cell's environment. Glycolipids embedded in the outer lipid layer serve a similar purpose. The cell membrane controls the movement of substances in and out of cells and organelles, being selectively permeable to ions and organic molecules. In addition, cell membranes are involved in a variety of cellular processes such as cell adhesion, ion conductivity, and cell signalling and serve as the attachment surface for several extracellular structures, including the cell wall and the carbohydrate layer called the glycocalyx, as well as the intracellular network of protein fibers called the cytoskeleton. In the field of synthetic biology, cell membranes can be artificially reassembled.

Bacillus subtilis

Bacillus subtilis

Bacillus subtilis, known also as the hay bacillus or grass bacillus, is a Gram-positive, catalase-positive bacterium, found in soil and the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants, humans and marine sponges. As a member of the genus Bacillus, B. subtilis is rod-shaped, and can form a tough, protective endospore, allowing it to tolerate extreme environmental conditions. B. subtilis has historically been classified as an obligate aerobe, though evidence exists that it is a facultative anaerobe. B. subtilis is considered the best studied Gram-positive bacterium and a model organism to study bacterial chromosome replication and cell differentiation. It is one of the bacterial champions in secreted enzyme production and used on an industrial scale by biotechnology companies.

Haemophilus influenzae

Haemophilus influenzae

Haemophilus influenzae is a Gram-negative, non-motile, coccobacillary, facultatively anaerobic, capnophilic pathogenic bacterium of the family Pasteurellaceae. The bacteria are mesophilic and grow best at temperatures between 35 and 37℃.

Biofilm

Biofilm

A biofilm comprises any syntrophic consortium of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other and often also to a surface. These adherent cells become embedded within a slimy extracellular matrix that is composed of extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs). The cells within the biofilm produce the EPS components, which are typically a polymeric conglomeration of extracellular polysaccharides, proteins, lipids and DNA. Because they have three-dimensional structure and represent a community lifestyle for microorganisms, they have been metaphorically described as "cities for microbes".

Micrococcus luteus

Micrococcus luteus

Micrococcus luteus is a Gram-positive to Gram-variable, nonmotile, tetrad-arranging, pigmented, saprotrophic coccus bacterium in the family Micrococcaceae. It is urease and catalase positive. An obligate aerobe, M. luteus is found in soil, dust, water and air, and as part of the normal microbiota of the mammalian skin. The bacterium also colonizes the human mouth, mucosae, oropharynx and upper respiratory tract.

Actinomycetota

Actinomycetota

The Actinomycetota are a phylum of all gram-positive bacteria. They can be terrestrial or aquatic. They are of great economic importance to humans because agriculture and forests depend on their contributions to soil systems. In soil they help to decompose the organic matter of dead organisms so the molecules can be taken up anew by plants. While this role is also played by fungi, Actinomycetota are much smaller and likely do not occupy the same ecological niche. In this role the colonies often grow extensive mycelia, like a fungus would, and the name of an important order of the phylum, Actinomycetales, reflects that they were long believed to be fungi. Some soil actinomycetota live symbiotically with the plants whose roots pervade the soil, fixing nitrogen for the plants in exchange for access to some of the plant's saccharides. Other species, such as many members of the genus Mycobacterium, are important pathogens.

Bacteriophage

Bacteriophage

A bacteriophage, also known informally as a phage, is a duplodnaviria virus that infects and replicates within bacteria and archaea. The term was derived from "bacteria" and the Greek φαγεῖν, meaning "to devour". Bacteriophages are composed of proteins that encapsulate a DNA or RNA genome, and may have structures that are either simple or elaborate. Their genomes may encode as few as four genes and as many as hundreds of genes. Phages replicate within the bacterium following the injection of their genome into its cytoplasm.

DNA repair

DNA repair

DNA repair is a collection of processes by which a cell identifies and corrects damage to the DNA molecules that encode its genome. In human cells, both normal metabolic activities and environmental factors such as radiation can cause DNA damage, resulting in tens of thousands of individual molecular lesions per cell per day. Many of these lesions cause structural damage to the DNA molecule and can alter or eliminate the cell's ability to transcribe the gene that the affected DNA encodes. Other lesions induce potentially harmful mutations in the cell's genome, which affect the survival of its daughter cells after it undergoes mitosis. As a consequence, the DNA repair process is constantly active as it responds to damage in the DNA structure. When normal repair processes fail, and when cellular apoptosis does not occur, irreparable DNA damage may occur, including double-strand breaks and DNA crosslinkages. This can eventually lead to malignant tumors, or cancer as per the two hit hypothesis.

Evolution of sexual reproduction

Evolution of sexual reproduction

Sexual reproduction is an adaptive feature which is common to almost all multicellular organisms and various unicellular organisms, with some organisms being incapable of asexual reproduction. Currently the adaptive advantage of sexual reproduction is widely regarded as a major unsolved problem in biology. As discussed below, one prominent theory is that sex evolved as an efficient mechanism for producing variation, and this had the advantage of enabling organisms to adapt to changing environments. Another prominent theory, also discussed below, is that a primary advantage of outcrossing sex is the masking of the expression of deleterious mutations. Additional theories concerning the adaptive advantage of sex are also discussed below. Sex does, however, come with a cost. In reproducing asexually, no time nor energy needs to be expended in choosing a mate. And if the environment has not changed, then there may be little reason for variation, as the organism may already be well adapted. Sex also halves the amount of offspring a given population is able to produce. Sex, however, has evolved as the most prolific means of species branching into the tree of life. Diversification into the phylogenetic tree happens much more rapidly via sexual reproduction than it does by way of asexual reproduction.

Meiosis

Meiosis

Meiosis is a special type of cell division of germ cells in sexually-reproducing organisms that produces the gametes, such as sperm or egg cells. It involves two rounds of division that ultimately result in four cells with only one copy of each chromosome (haploid). Additionally, prior to the division, genetic material from the paternal and maternal copies of each chromosome is crossed over, creating new combinations of code on each chromosome. Later on, during fertilisation, the haploid cells produced by meiosis from a male and female will fuse to create a cell with two copies of each chromosome again, the zygote.

Methods and mechanisms of transformation in laboratory

Schematic of bacterial transformation – for which artificial competence must first be induced.
Schematic of bacterial transformation – for which artificial competence must first be induced.

Bacterial

Artificial competence can be induced in laboratory procedures that involve making the cell passively permeable to DNA by exposing it to conditions that do not normally occur in nature.[43] Typically the cells are incubated in a solution containing divalent cations (often calcium chloride) under cold conditions, before being exposed to a heat pulse (heat shock). Calcium chloride partially disrupts the cell membrane, which allows the recombinant DNA to enter the host cell. Cells that are able to take up the DNA are called competent cells.

It has been found that growth of Gram-negative bacteria in 20 mM Mg reduces the number of protein-to-lipopolysaccharide bonds by increasing the ratio of ionic to covalent bonds, which increases membrane fluidity, facilitating transformation.[44] The role of lipopolysaccharides here are verified from the observation that shorter O-side chains are more effectively transformed – perhaps because of improved DNA accessibility.

The surface of bacteria such as E. coli is negatively charged due to phospholipids and lipopolysaccharides on its cell surface, and the DNA is also negatively charged. One function of the divalent cation therefore would be to shield the charges by coordinating the phosphate groups and other negative charges, thereby allowing a DNA molecule to adhere to the cell surface.

DNA entry into E. coli cells is through channels known as zones of adhesion or Bayer's junction, with a typical cell carrying as many as 400 such zones. Their role was established when cobalamine (which also uses these channels) was found to competitively inhibit DNA uptake. Another type of channel implicated in DNA uptake consists of poly (HB):poly P:Ca. In this poly (HB) is envisioned to wrap around DNA (itself a polyphosphate), and is carried in a shield formed by Ca ions.[44]

It is suggested that exposing the cells to divalent cations in cold condition may also change or weaken the cell surface structure, making it more permeable to DNA. The heat-pulse is thought to create a thermal imbalance across the cell membrane, which forces the DNA to enter the cells through either cell pores or the damaged cell wall.

Electroporation is another method of promoting competence. In this method the cells are briefly shocked with an electric field of 10-20 kV/cm, which is thought to create holes in the cell membrane through which the plasmid DNA may enter. After the electric shock, the holes are rapidly closed by the cell's membrane-repair mechanisms.

Yeast

Most species of yeast, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, may be transformed by exogenous DNA in the environment. Several methods have been developed to facilitate this transformation at high frequency in the lab.[45]

  • Yeast cells may be treated with enzymes to degrade their cell walls, yielding spheroplasts. These cells are very fragile but take up foreign DNA at a high rate.[46]
  • Exposing intact yeast cells to alkali cations such as those of caesium or lithium allows the cells to take up plasmid DNA.[47] Later protocols adapted this transformation method, using lithium acetate, polyethylene glycol, and single-stranded DNA.[48] In these protocols, the single-stranded DNA preferentially binds to the yeast cell wall, preventing plasmid DNA from doing so and leaving it available for transformation.[49]
  • Electroporation: Formation of transient holes in the cell membranes using electric shock; this allows DNA to enter as described above for bacteria.[50]
  • Enzymatic digestion[51] or agitation with glass beads[52] may also be used to transform yeast cells.

Efficiency – Different yeast genera and species take up foreign DNA with different efficiencies.[53] Also, most transformation protocols have been developed for baker's yeast, S. cerevisiae, and thus may not be optimal for other species. Even within one species, different strains have different transformation efficiencies, sometimes different by three orders of magnitude. For instance, when S. cerevisiae strains were transformed with 10 ug of plasmid YEp13, the strain DKD-5D-H yielded between 550 and 3115 colonies while strain OS1 yielded fewer than five colonies.[54]

Plants

A number of methods are available to transfer DNA into plant cells. Some vector-mediated methods are:

  • Agrobacterium-mediated transformation is the easiest and most simple plant transformation. Plant tissue (often leaves) are cut into small pieces, e.g. 10x10mm, and soaked for ten minutes in a fluid containing suspended Agrobacterium. The bacteria will attach to many of the plant cells exposed by the cut. The plant cells secrete wound-related phenolic compounds which in turn act to upregulate the virulence operon of the Agrobacterium. The virulence operon includes many genes that encode for proteins that are part of a Type IV secretion system that exports from the bacterium proteins and DNA (delineated by specific recognition motifs called border sequences and excised as a single strand from the virulence plasmid) into the plant cell through a structure called a pilus. The transferred DNA (called T-DNA) is piloted to the plant cell nucleus by nuclear localization signals present in the Agrobacterium protein VirD2, which is covalently attached to the end of the T-DNA at the Right border (RB). Exactly how the T-DNA is integrated into the host plant genomic DNA is an active area of plant biology research. Assuming that a selection marker (such as an antibiotic resistance gene) was included in the T-DNA, the transformed plant tissue can be cultured on selective media to produce shoots. The shoots are then transferred to a different medium to promote root formation. Once roots begin to grow from the transgenic shoot, the plants can be transferred to soil to complete a normal life cycle (make seeds). The seeds from this first plant (called the T1, for first transgenic generation) can be planted on a selective (containing an antibiotic), or if an herbicide resistance gene was used, could alternatively be planted in soil, then later treated with herbicide to kill wildtype segregants. Some plants species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana can be transformed by dipping the flowers or whole plant, into a suspension of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, typically strain C58 (C=Cherry, 58=1958, the year in which this particular strain of A. tumefaciens was isolated from a cherry tree in an orchard at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York). Though many plants remain recalcitrant to transformation by this method, research is ongoing that continues to add to the list the species that have been successfully modified in this manner.
  • Viral transformation (transduction): Package the desired genetic material into a suitable plant virus and allow this modified virus to infect the plant. If the genetic material is DNA, it can recombine with the chromosomes to produce transformant cells. However, genomes of most plant viruses consist of single stranded RNA which replicates in the cytoplasm of infected cell. For such genomes this method is a form of transfection and not a real transformation, since the inserted genes never reach the nucleus of the cell and do not integrate into the host genome. The progeny of the infected plants is virus-free and also free of the inserted gene.

Some vector-less methods include:

  • Gene gun: Also referred to as particle bombardment, microprojectile bombardment, or biolistics. Particles of gold or tungsten are coated with DNA and then shot into young plant cells or plant embryos. Some genetic material will stay in the cells and transform them. This method also allows transformation of plant plastids. The transformation efficiency is lower than in Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, but most plants can be transformed with this method.
  • Electroporation: Formation of transient holes in cell membranes using electric pulses of high field strength; this allows DNA to enter as described above for bacteria.[55]

Fungi

There are some methods to produce transgenic fungi most of them being analogous to those used for plants. However, fungi have to be treated differently due to some of their microscopic and biochemical traits:

  • A major issue is the dikaryotic state that parts of some fungi are in; dikaryotic cells contain two haploid nuclei, one of each parent fungus. If only one of these gets transformed, which is the rule, the percentage of transformed nuclei decreases after each sporulation.[56]
  • Fungal cell walls are quite thick hindering DNA uptake so (partial) removal is often required;[57] complete degradation, which is sometimes necessary,[56] yields protoplasts.
  • Mycelial fungi consist of filamentous hyphae, which are, if at all, separated by internal cell walls interrupted by pores big enough to enable nutrients and organelles, sometimes even nuclei, to travel through each hypha. As a result, individual cells usually cannot be separated. This is problematic as neighbouring transformed cells may render untransformed ones immune to selection treatments, e.g. by delivering nutrients or proteins for antibiotic resistance.[56]
  • Additionally, growth (and thereby mitosis) of these fungi exclusively occurs at the tip of their hyphae which can also deliver issues.[56]

As stated earlier, an array of methods used for plant transformation do also work in fungi:

  • Agrobacterium is not only capable of infecting plants but also fungi, however, unlike plants, fungi do not secrete the phenolic compounds necessary to trigger Agrobacterium so that they have to be added, e.g. in the form of acetosyringone.[56]
  • Thanks to development of an expression system for small RNAs in fungi the introduction of a CRISPR/CAS9-system in fungal cells became possible.[56] In 2016 the USDA declared that it will not regulate a white button mushroom strain edited with CRISPR/CAS9 to prevent fruit body browning causing a broad discussion about placing CRISPR/CAS9-edited crops on the market.[58]
  • Physical methods like electroporation, biolistics ("gene gun"), sonoporation that uses cavitation of gas bubbles produced by ultrasound to penetrate the cell membrane, etc. are also applicable to fungi.[59]

Animals

Introduction of DNA into animal cells is usually called transfection, and is discussed in the corresponding article.

Discover more about Methods and mechanisms of transformation in laboratory related topics

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride is an inorganic compound, a salt with the chemical formula CaCl2. It is a white crystalline solid at room temperature, and it is highly soluble in water. It can be created by neutralising hydrochloric acid with calcium hydroxide.

Lipopolysaccharide

Lipopolysaccharide

Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are large molecules consisting of a lipid and a polysaccharide that are bacterial toxins. They are composed of an O-antigen, an outer core, and an inner core all joined by a covalent bond, and are found in the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria. Today, the term endotoxin is often used synonymously with LPS, although there are a few endotoxins that are not related to LPS, such as the so-called delta endotoxin proteins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis.

Electroporation

Electroporation

Electroporation, or electropermeabilization, is a microbiology technique in which an electrical field is applied to cells in order to increase the permeability of the cell membrane, allowing chemicals, drugs, electrode arrays or DNA to be introduced into the cell. In microbiology, the process of electroporation is often used to transform bacteria, yeast, or plant protoplasts by introducing new coding DNA. If bacteria and plasmids are mixed together, the plasmids can be transferred into the bacteria after electroporation, though depending on what is being transferred, cell-penetrating peptides or CellSqueeze could also be used. Electroporation works by passing thousands of volts across suspended cells in an electroporation cuvette. Afterwards, the cells have to be handled carefully until they have had a chance to divide, producing new cells that contain reproduced plasmids. This process is approximately ten times more effective in increasing cell membrane's permeability than chemical transformation.

Electric field

Electric field

An electric field is the physical field that surrounds electrically charged particles and exerts force on all other charged particles in the field, either attracting or repelling them. It also refers to the physical field for a system of charged particles. Electric fields originate from electric charges and time-varying electric currents. Electric fields and magnetic fields are both manifestations of the electromagnetic field, one of the four fundamental interactions of nature.

Volt

Volt

The volt is the unit of electric potential, electric potential difference (voltage), and electromotive force in the International System of Units (SI). It is named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta (1745–1827).

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a species of yeast. The species has been instrumental in winemaking, baking, and brewing since ancient times. It is believed to have been originally isolated from the skin of grapes. It is one of the most intensively studied eukaryotic model organisms in molecular and cell biology, much like Escherichia coli as the model bacterium. It is the microorganism behind the most common type of fermentation. S. cerevisiae cells are round to ovoid, 5–10 μm in diameter. It reproduces by budding.

Spheroplast

Spheroplast

A spheroplast is a microbial cell from which the cell wall has been almost completely removed, as by the action of penicillin or lysozyme. According to some definitions, the term is used to describe Gram-negative bacteria. According to other definitions, the term also encompasses yeasts. The name spheroplast stems from the fact that after the microbe's cell wall is digested, membrane tension causes the cell to acquire a characteristic spherical shape. Spheroplasts are osmotically fragile, and will lyse if transferred to a hypotonic solution.

Alkali

Alkali

In chemistry, an alkali is a basic, ionic salt of an alkali metal or an alkaline earth metal. An alkali can also be defined as a base that dissolves in water. A solution of a soluble base has a pH greater than 7.0. The adjective alkaline, and less often, alkalescent, is commonly used in English as a synonym for basic, especially for bases soluble in water. This broad use of the term is likely to have come about because alkalis were the first bases known to obey the Arrhenius definition of a base, and they are still among the most common bases.

Caesium

Caesium

Caesium is a chemical element with the symbol Cs and atomic number 55. It is a soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature. Caesium has physical and chemical properties similar to those of rubidium and potassium. It is pyrophoric and reacts with water even at −116 °C (−177 °F). It is the least electronegative element, with a value of 0.79 on the Pauling scale. It has only one stable isotope, caesium-133. Caesium is mined mostly from pollucite. Caesium-137, a fission product, is extracted from waste produced by nuclear reactors.

Lithium

Lithium

Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and atomic number 3. It is a soft, silvery-white alkali metal. Under standard conditions, it is the least dense metal and the least dense solid element. Like all alkali metals, lithium is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in vacuum, inert atmosphere, or inert liquid such as purified kerosene or mineral oil. It exhibits a metallic luster. It corrodes quickly in air to a dull silvery gray, then black tarnish. It does not occur freely in nature, but occurs mainly as pegmatitic minerals, which were once the main source of lithium. Due to its solubility as an ion, it is present in ocean water and is commonly obtained from brines. Lithium metal is isolated electrolytically from a mixture of lithium chloride and potassium chloride.

Lithium acetate

Lithium acetate

Lithium acetate (CH3COOLi) is a salt of lithium and acetic acid. It is often abbreviated as LiOAc.

Polyethylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol

Polyethylene glycol (PEG; ) is a polyether compound derived from petroleum with many applications, from industrial manufacturing to medicine. PEG is also known as polyethylene oxide (PEO) or polyoxyethylene (POE), depending on its molecular weight. The structure of PEG is commonly expressed as H−(O−CH2−CH2)n−OH.

Practical aspects of transformation in molecular biology

The discovery of artificially induced competence in bacteria allow bacteria such as Escherichia coli to be used as a convenient host for the manipulation of DNA as well as expressing proteins. Typically plasmids are used for transformation in E. coli. In order to be stably maintained in the cell, a plasmid DNA molecule must contain an origin of replication, which allows it to be replicated in the cell independently of the replication of the cell's own chromosome.

The efficiency with which a competent culture can take up exogenous DNA and express its genes is known as transformation efficiency and is measured in colony forming unit (cfu) per μg DNA used. A transformation efficiency of 1×108 cfu/μg for a small plasmid like pUC19 is roughly equivalent to 1 in 2000 molecules of the plasmid used being transformed.

In calcium chloride transformation, the cells are prepared by chilling cells in the presence of Ca2+
(in CaCl
2
solution), making the cell become permeable to plasmid DNA. The cells are incubated on ice with the DNA, and then briefly heat-shocked (e.g., at 42 °C for 30–120 seconds). This method works very well for circular plasmid DNA. Non-commercial preparations should normally give 106 to 107 transformants per microgram of plasmid; a poor preparation will be about 104/μg or less, but a good preparation of competent cells can give up to ~108 colonies per microgram of plasmid.[60] Protocols, however, exist for making supercompetent cells that may yield a transformation efficiency of over 109.[61] The chemical method, however, usually does not work well for linear DNA, such as fragments of chromosomal DNA, probably because the cell's native exonuclease enzymes rapidly degrade linear DNA. In contrast, cells that are naturally competent are usually transformed more efficiently with linear DNA than with plasmid DNA.

The transformation efficiency using the CaCl
2
method decreases with plasmid size, and electroporation therefore may be a more effective method for the uptake of large plasmid DNA.[62] Cells used in electroporation should be prepared first by washing in cold double-distilled water to remove charged particles that may create sparks during the electroporation process.

Selection and screening in plasmid transformation

Because transformation usually produces a mixture of relatively few transformed cells and an abundance of non-transformed cells, a method is necessary to select for the cells that have acquired the plasmid.[63] The plasmid therefore requires a selectable marker such that those cells without the plasmid may be killed or have their growth arrested. Antibiotic resistance is the most commonly used marker for prokaryotes. The transforming plasmid contains a gene that confers resistance to an antibiotic that the bacteria are otherwise sensitive to. The mixture of treated cells is cultured on media that contain the antibiotic so that only transformed cells are able to grow. Another method of selection is the use of certain auxotrophic markers that can compensate for an inability to metabolise certain amino acids, nucleotides, or sugars. This method requires the use of suitably mutated strains that are deficient in the synthesis or utility of a particular biomolecule, and the transformed cells are cultured in a medium that allows only cells containing the plasmid to grow.

In a cloning experiment, a gene may be inserted into a plasmid used for transformation. However, in such experiment, not all the plasmids may contain a successfully inserted gene. Additional techniques may therefore be employed further to screen for transformed cells that contain plasmid with the insert. Reporter genes can be used as markers, such as the lacZ gene which codes for β-galactosidase used in blue-white screening. This method of screening relies on the principle of α-complementation, where a fragment of the lacZ gene (lacZα) in the plasmid can complement another mutant lacZ gene (lacZΔM15) in the cell. Both genes by themselves produce non-functional peptides, however, when expressed together, as when a plasmid containing lacZ-α is transformed into a lacZΔM15 cells, they form a functional β-galactosidase. The presence of an active β-galactosidase may be detected when cells are grown in plates containing X-gal, forming characteristic blue colonies. However, the multiple cloning site, where a gene of interest may be ligated into the plasmid vector, is located within the lacZα gene. Successful ligation therefore disrupts the lacZα gene, and no functional β-galactosidase can form, resulting in white colonies. Cells containing successfully ligated insert can then be easily identified by its white coloration from the unsuccessful blue ones.

Other commonly used reporter genes are green fluorescent protein (GFP), which produces cells that glow green under blue light, and the enzyme luciferase, which catalyzes a reaction with luciferin to emit light. The recombinant DNA may also be detected using other methods such as nucleic acid hybridization with radioactive RNA probe, while cells that expressed the desired protein from the plasmid may also be detected using immunological methods.

Discover more about Practical aspects of transformation in molecular biology related topics

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli

Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli, is a Gram-negative, facultative anaerobic, rod-shaped, coliform bacterium of the genus Escherichia that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes (EPEC, ETEC etc.) can cause serious food poisoning in their hosts, and are occasionally responsible for food contamination incidents that prompt product recalls. Most strains do not cause disease in humans and are part of the normal microbiota of the gut; such strains are harmless or even beneficial to humans (although these strains tend to be less studied than the pathogenic ones). For example, some strains of E. coli benefit their hosts by producing vitamin K2 or by preventing the colonization of the intestine by pathogenic bacteria. These mutually beneficial relationships between E. coli and humans are a type of mutualistic biological relationship — where both the humans and the E. coli are benefitting each other. E. coli is expelled into the environment within fecal matter. The bacterium grows massively in fresh faecal matter under aerobic conditions for three days, but its numbers decline slowly afterwards.

Origin of replication

Origin of replication

The origin of replication is a particular sequence in a genome at which replication is initiated. Propagation of the genetic material between generations requires timely and accurate duplication of DNA by semiconservative replication prior to cell division to ensure each daughter cell receives the full complement of chromosomes. This can either involve the replication of DNA in living organisms such as prokaryotes and eukaryotes, or that of DNA or RNA in viruses, such as double-stranded RNA viruses. Synthesis of daughter strands starts at discrete sites, termed replication origins, and proceeds in a bidirectional manner until all genomic DNA is replicated. Despite the fundamental nature of these events, organisms have evolved surprisingly divergent strategies that control replication onset. Although the specific replication origin organization structure and recognition varies from species to species, some common characteristics are shared.

PUC19

PUC19

pUC19 is one of a series of plasmid cloning vectors created by Joachim Messing and co-workers. The designation "pUC" is derived from the classical "p" prefix and the abbreviation for the University of California, where early work on the plasmid series had been conducted. It is a circular double stranded DNA and has 2686 base pairs. pUC19 is one of the most widely used vector molecules as the recombinants, or the cells into which foreign DNA has been introduced, can be easily distinguished from the non-recombinants based on color differences of colonies on growth media. pUC18 is similar to pUC19, but the MCS region is reversed.

Calcium chloride transformation

Calcium chloride transformation

Calcium chloride (CaCl2) transformation is a laboratory technique in prokaryotic (bacterial) cell biology. The addition of calcium chloride to a cell suspension promotes the binding of plasmid DNA to lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Positively charged calcium ions attract both the negatively charged DNA backbone and the negatively charged groups in the LPS inner core. The plasmid DNA can then pass into the cell upon heat shock, where chilled cells (+4 degrees Celsius) are heated to a higher temperature (+42 degrees Celsius) for a short time.

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride is an inorganic compound, a salt with the chemical formula CaCl2. It is a white crystalline solid at room temperature, and it is highly soluble in water. It can be created by neutralising hydrochloric acid with calcium hydroxide.

Exonuclease

Exonuclease

Exonucleases are enzymes that work by cleaving nucleotides one at a time from the end (exo) of a polynucleotide chain. A hydrolyzing reaction that breaks phosphodiester bonds at either the 3′ or the 5′ end occurs. Its close relative is the endonuclease, which cleaves phosphodiester bonds in the middle (endo) of a polynucleotide chain. Eukaryotes and prokaryotes have three types of exonucleases involved in the normal turnover of mRNA: 5′ to 3′ exonuclease (Xrn1), which is a dependent decapping protein; 3′ to 5′ exonuclease, an independent protein; and poly(A)-specific 3′ to 5′ exonuclease.

Auxotrophy

Auxotrophy

Auxotrophy is the inability of an organism to synthesize a particular organic compound required for its growth. An auxotroph is an organism that displays this characteristic; auxotrophic is the corresponding adjective. Auxotrophy is the opposite of prototrophy, which is characterized by the ability to synthesize all the compounds needed for growth.

Marker gene

Marker gene

In biology, a marker gene may have several meanings. In nuclear biology and molecular biology, a marker gene is a gene used to determine if a nucleic acid sequence has been successfully inserted into an organism's DNA. In particular, there are two sub-types of these marker genes: a selectable marker and a marker for screening. In metagenomics and phylogenetics, a marker gene is an orthologous gene group which can be used to delineate between taxonomic lineages.

Lac operon

Lac operon

The lactose operon is an operon required for the transport and metabolism of lactose in E. coli and many other enteric bacteria. Although glucose is the preferred carbon source for most bacteria, the lac operon allows for the effective digestion of lactose when glucose is not available through the activity of beta-galactosidase. Gene regulation of the lac operon was the first genetic regulatory mechanism to be understood clearly, so it has become a foremost example of prokaryotic gene regulation. It is often discussed in introductory molecular and cellular biology classes for this reason. This lactose metabolism system was used by François Jacob and Jacques Monod to determine how a biological cell knows which enzyme to synthesize. Their work on the lac operon won them the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1965.

Beta-galactosidase

Beta-galactosidase

β-Galactosidase, is a glycoside hydrolase enzyme that catalyzes hydrolysis of terminal non-reducing β-D-galactose residues in β-D-galactosides.

Complementation (genetics)

Complementation (genetics)

Complementation refers to a genetic process, when two strains of an organism with different homozygous recessive mutations that produce the same mutant phenotype have offspring that express the wild-type phenotype when mated or crossed. Complementation will ordinarily occur if the mutations are in different genes. Complementation may also occur if the two mutations are at different sites within the same gene, but this effect is usually weaker than that of intergenic complementation. In the case where the mutations are in different genes, each strain's genome supplies the wild-type allele to "complement" the mutated allele of the other strain's genome. Since the mutations are recessive, the offspring will display the wild-type phenotype. A complementation test can be used to test whether the mutations in two strains are in different genes. Complementation is usually weaker or absent if the mutations are in the same gene. The convenience and essence of this test is that the mutations that produce a phenotype can be assigned to different genes without the exact knowledge of what the gene product is doing on a molecular level. The complementation test was developed by American geneticist Edward B. Lewis.

Multiple cloning site

Multiple cloning site

A multiple cloning site (MCS), also called a polylinker, is a short segment of DNA which contains many restriction sites - a standard feature of engineered plasmids. Restriction sites within an MCS are typically unique, occurring only once within a given plasmid. The purpose of an MCS in a plasmid is to allow a piece of DNA to be inserted into that region.

Source: "Transformation (genetics)", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 27th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformation_(genetics).

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