The addictive brain

Lab scissors by Mary McMillian

I thought today I would show you some of my lab scissors. Ok, I know that these probably don’t look like scissors to most people, but to a molecular biologist these are scissors for cutting DNA.
These are just a few of my restriction enzymes that I have in the lab. Restriction enzymes are cool little proteins that cut up DNA. Each of these enzymes here recognises different sequences in DNA, called restriction sites. When they find those sequences in a piece of DNA they will cut the DNA at that position. Some restriction enzymes cut straight through the DNA, leaving what we call a blunt end. Other enzymes make staggered cuts in the DNA, leaving single stranded overhangs that we call sticky ends.

This is particularly useful if you are a molecular biologist, because you can cut pieces of DNA from different sources with the same enzyme, and they will then have matching ends that can be stuck (or ligated if you want the technical term) back together. This is how we create recombinant DNA. In my case I often use restriction enzymes to cut some human DNA and some bacterial DNA, and then stick the two together so that I can get bacteria to express human genes.
PS. Stay tuned and in my next post I’ll show you how these restriction enzymes work in practise :) Thank you Mary, for explaining about the restriction enzymes. We look forward to your next post about the working mechanism of these scissors.

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232 University of New England

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