A well debated topic in our society is ‘playing god’, by which I mean making changes to cells in vitro to result in advantageous or disadvantageous affects, (depending on what these are being used for). On a smaller level, an aim of scientists is to improve wild strains of microorganisms which can then be used to produce the desirable product. AN issue with this can be that mutant strains are usually genetically unstable and revert to the wild type in continuous culture.
The process of improving these wild strains can be done through many different mechanisms such as selective breeding and culture, mutagenesis and recombinant DNA technology.
Mutagenesis is the process of inducing mutations, and can be done by using mutagenic agents such as ultraviolet light, gamma rays and x-rays.
In selective breeding scientists have the bacteria in conditions where horizontal transfer is likely to occur so that they reproduce sexually to create new genotypes and phenotypes.
Recombinant DNA technology involves the joining together of DNA molecules from two different species. This can be done by the following steps as shown below:
-DNA from the donor organism is extracted.
-The enzyme restriction endonuclease cuts the required gene from the DNA fragment at a restriction sight leaving sticky ends.
-Restriction endonuclease then cuts the vector (plasmid) at the restriction site also leaving sticky ends. These sticky ends are important so that they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
-The enzyme DNA ligase seals the DNA fragment into the plasmid and seals the sticky ends together to form recombinant DNA.
-The recombinant plasmids are inserted into host cells and the transformed host cells are selected and cultured. These cells go through the normal process of transcription and translation till a protein is produced which can be extracted.
A danger of these recombinant DNA is the risk of release into the environment and the creation of a new pathogenic microorganism. To counter this genes can be inserted as a safety mechanism that prevent the survival of the microorganism in the outside environment.
I hope to discuss this is greater depth when going through the GMO process!