A Biotechnology Glossary

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Other definitions are available at these web sites:
Indiana University's Biotech Life Science Dictionary

Department of Energy's Primer on Molecular Genetics

antibiotic resistance gene: A gene carried on a plasmid that imparts
resistance to an antibiotic.

bacterial virus/bacteriophage (phage): A virus that infects and replicates exclusively within a bacterium, usually killing it.

biohazards controversy: a politically fraught period extending from the mid-1970s to about 1980 when scientists, politicians, and the general public
debated the risk of biohazardous organisms arising from recombinant DNA

biotechnology: In the widest sense, biotechnology is a set of techniques,
some of them ancient (beer- and cheesemaking), using living organisms in the
production of goods for human use. In a narrower sense, biotechnology is the
use of technologies based on molecular genetics for the production of
pharmaceuticals, vaccines, agricultural products, etc.

chromosome: A threadlike component of the cell consisting of DNA and protein and carrying genes.

clone: A group of genetically identical genes, cells, or organisms derived
from a common ancestor.

cloning: A process (such as recombinant DNA technology) for obtaining a
genetically identical group of genes, cells, or organisms.

complementarity: In molecular biology, the relationship of the nucleotide
bases on two different strands of DNA or RNA. When the bases are properly paired (adenine with thymine (DNA) or uracil (RNA), the strands are complementary.

DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid, the basic hereditary molecule.

E. coli: Escherichia coli, a type of bacterium commonly used in research
using recombinant DNA technology because it is genetically well characterized.

enzyme: A protein catalyst that facilitates specific chemical or metabolic
reactions necessary for cell growth and reproduction.

eukaryote: A cell or organism containing a true nucleus with a well-defined membrane; a "higher" organism.

gene: A segment of a chromosome coding for synthesis of a specific protein or regulating gene function.

genetic engineering: Any one of several techniques for the laboratory
manipulation of genes, such as recombinant DNA or monoclonal
antibody/hybridoma technology.

genome: The sum total of an organism's genes.

nucleotide/nucleotide base: One of the four chemical units making up DNA and RNA. The four bases are adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. In RNA, uracil substitutes for thymine. The order and complementary pairing of the bases on the DNA molecule forms the genetic code.

plasmid: A small circular form of DNA found in bacteria which carries certain genes, such as for antibiotic resistance, and which replicates independently of the host cell.

prokaryote: An organism, such as a bacterium, virus, or blue-green alga,
whose DNA is not enclosed in a nuclear membrane; a "lower" organism.

recombinant DNA: Gene or DNA cloning; a form of genetic engineering which combines DNA from different types of organisms and amplifies it by cloning.

restriction enzyme: A bacterial enzyme which degrades DNA by cutting it at specific nucleotide sequences in the DNA strand; each type or restriction
enzyme has a unique cleavage site.

RNA: Ribonucleic acid, the molecule assisting in translation of the genetic
message of DNA into protein.

transformation: In biomolecular science, the laboratory transfer of foreign
DNA into a cell in order to induce permanent genetic changes; conversion of a normal cell to a malignant state.

vector: An agent, often a virus or plasmid, used to carry foreign DNA into a cell.

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Last Updated: 11/15/04