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Recombinant DNA Technology

Recombinant DNA Technology

Author: Amanda Soderlind

Understand applications of DNA technology

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Source: Video and Images Created by Amanda Soderlind

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Welcome to this lesson today on recombinant DNA technology. Today we will be discussing the process of recombinant DNA technology and how it's used in genetic engineering. So first of all, genetic engineering is a process which involves the alteration of the genes of an organism. In recombinant DNA technology, it's used in genetic engineering because we're altering the genes of a certain organism. So recombinant DNA contains the DNA of more than one species. Recombinant DNA contains the DNA of more than one species and we're altering this DNA in some way which makes it a form of genetic engineering. We're going to talk about how recombinant DNA is formed. Recombinant DNA technology will use the DNA from a certain organism and then splice that DNA into bacterial DNA, and then that DNA will divide and replicate.

The bacterial DNA is referred to as a plasmid. Plasmids are these small circular regions of extra DNA molecules within a bacterium. So what's going to happen is that restriction enzymes are used to cut out specific sequences of bases of DNA. So right here, let's just pretend that this is a segment of human DNA and this is our bacterial plasmid. Restriction enzymes will cut out this section here of the DNA and we'll cut out a section of the plasmid. Those restriction enzymes are cutting out a specific sequence of bases of the DNA. So then what we're going to end up is the section here and then our plasmid will look something like this. Then what's going to happen is that this DNA fragment is going to combine with this DNA fragment here to produce this. So basically what we have here is we had our DNA fragment that was combined with our plasmid into this structure here. And they were combined with the help from some modification enzymes. Then what's going to happen is that this section of DNA will be inserted into bacterial cells. We have the section of DNA inserted into a bacterial cell, and then the bacterial cell will divide, and it will produce multiple bacterial cells all that have that recombinant DNA in it. So that's how recombinant DNA is used in order to produce a lot of DNA in a short amount of time.

So it's used in genetic engineering and this process has applications in helping us to further understand the human genome in medicine, and agriculture, and industry. One example of how this is actually used in the real world is for insulin production. Basically, what will happen is that DNA that contains the genes for insulin production in humans will be spliced together with the bacterial plasmid inserted into a bacteria, and then basically, that bacteria will produce insulin. And so this makes insulin production happen much more quickly, and it makes it a lot cheaper because we no longer have to extract that insulin from endocrine cells. Instead we can use this process to make a lot of insulin really, really fast which is a huge benefit. So that's one way in which recombinant DNA technology is used in genetic engineering. This lesson has been an overview on the process of recombinant DNA technology.

Terms to Know

Using genetically modified organisms to clean pollutants.


The production of a genetic replica of a cell or organism.

Embryonic Stem Cells

Cells from an embryo that have not yet specialized and therefore can be coaxed to produce various types of organs and tissues.

Gene Therapy

The process of replacing mutated genes with normally functioning genes. Gene therapy can be done directly or with vectors (virus).

Genetic Engineering

Manipulating an organism’s DNA to create a genetically modified organism (GMOs).

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

An organism that contains DNA produced by genetic engineering (such as DNA from more than one species).

Plasmid DNA

DNA that is separate from a chromosome but can code for a protein. Plasmids are often circular, double-stranded and common in bacteria.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Genetic technology that allows scientists to copy DNA quickly.

Recombinant DNA

A DNA molecule that contains DNA from multiple species, often used with bacteria (example: using recombinant DNA to stimulate E. coli to produce human insulin).

Reproductive Cloning

A type of cloning in which a cloned embryo is implanted into a mother's uterus and allowed to develop into a baby.

Restriction Enzyme

Enzymes that cut apart specific segments of DNA.

Therapeutic Cloning

A type of cloning in which embryonic stem cells are used to produce organs or tissues.


A gene is inserted into a vector (virus) and injected into a person; the virus will deliver the gene into the host cells.


A method of introducing new genes into cells (often bacterial cells).

Transgenic Organisms

Organisms that contain genes from another organism.