# 7.12B: Selection

• Boundless
• Boundless

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A selectable marker is usually a gene that confers resistance to an antibiotic that would otherwise kill the cells.

## LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Identify the purpose of selection in genetic engineering

## Key Points

• Recombinant DNA is introduced into the organism from which the replication sequences were obtained, then the foreign DNA will be replicated along with the host cell’s DNA in the transgenic organism.
• Artificial genetic selection is the process in which cells that have not taken up DNA are selectively killed, and only those cells that can actively replicate DNA containing the selectable marker gene encoded by the vector are able to survive.
• When bacterial cells are used as host organisms, the selectable marker is usually a gene that confers resistance to an antibiotic that would otherwise kill the cells, typically ampicillin.

## Key Terms

• molecular cloning: a set of experimental methods in molecular biology that are used to assemble recombinant DNA molecules and to direct their replication within host organisms.
• PCR: polymerase chain reaction

Scientists who do experimental genetics employ artificial selection experiments that permit the survival of organisms with user-defined phenotypes. Artificial selection is widely used in the field of microbial genetics, especially molecular cloning.

DNA recombination has been used to create gene replacements, deletions, insertions, inversions. Gene cloning and gene/protein tagging is also common. For gene replacements or deletions, usually a cassette encoding a drug-resistance gene is made by PCR.

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 a single DNA molecule starting from a single living cell to generate a large population of cells containing 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.

In a conventional molecular cloning experiment, the DNA to be cloned is obtained from an organism of interest. It is then treated with enzymes in the test tube to generate smaller DNA fragments. Subsequently, these fragments are then combined with vector DNA to generate recombinant DNA molecules. The recombinant DNA is then introduced into a host organism (typically an easy-to-grow, benign, laboratory strain of E. coli bacteria ). This will generate a population of organisms in which recombinant DNA molecules are replicated along with the host DNA. Because they contain foreign DNA fragments, these are transgenic or genetically-modified microorganisms (GMO). This process takes advantage of the fact that a single bacterial cell can be induced to take up and replicate a single recombinant DNA molecule. This single cell can then be expanded exponentially to generate a large amount of bacteria, each of which contain copies of the original recombinant molecule. Thus, both the resulting bacterial population, and the recombinant DNA molecule, are commonly referred to as “clones”. Strictly speaking, recombinant DNA refers to DNA molecules, while molecular cloning refers to the experimental methods used to assemble them.

Molecular cloning takes advantage of the fact that the chemical structure of DNA is fundamentally the same in all living organisms. Therefore, if any segment of DNA from any organism is inserted into a DNA segment containing the molecular sequences required for DNA replication, and the resulting recombinant DNA is introduced into the organism from which the replication sequences were obtained, then the foreign DNA will be replicated along with the host cell’s DNA in the transgenic organism.

Molecular cloning is similar to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in that it permits the replication of a specific DNA sequence. The fundamental difference between the two methods is that molecular cloning involves replication of the DNA in a living microorganism, while PCR replicates DNA in an in vitro solution, free of living cells. Whichever method is used, the introduction of recombinant DNA into the chosen host organism is usually a low efficiency process; that is, only a small fraction of the cells will actually take up DNA. Experimental scientists deal with this issue through a step of artificial genetic selection, in which cells that have not taken up DNA are selectively killed, and only those cells that can actively replicate DNA containing the selectable marker gene encoded by the vector are able to survive. When bacterial cells are used as host organisms, the selectable marker is usually a gene that confers resistance to an antibiotic that would otherwise kill the cells, typically ampicillin. Cells harboring the vector will survive when exposed to the antibiotic, while those that fail to take up vector sequences die. When mammalian cells (e.g. human or mouse cells) are used, a similar strategy is used, except that the marker gene (in this case typically encoded as part of the kanMX cassette) confers resistance to the antibiotic Geneticin.

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