The Utility of Nucleic Acid Hybridisation and Nucleic Acid Probes In Molecular Biology

The Utility of Nucleic Acid Hybridisation and Nucleic Acid Probes In Molecular Biology

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The unique property of nucleic acids to pair with each other through complementary base pairing is the lifeblood of genetic engineering. A single strand of DNA can pair up with another strand of DNA or RNA if its base pairs are complementary to those of the other strand, under the right conditions of temperature and pH. This phenomenon is called nucleic acid hybridisation. It is possible to exploit this mechanism for the detection of one nucleic acid strand from a mixture of many other strands. For instance, if a DNA strand with a desired nucleotide sequence is to be detected from a mixture of many other strands, an oligonucleotide containing a few complementary bases to the desired sequence can be prepared and attached to an anchor such as a membrane or a paper. When soaked in a solution having a mixture of many strands, the one, which is complementary to the oligonucleotide, will bind to it through complementary base pairing, also known as “zippering” (Lodish et al, 2004, p. 11).
When double stranded DNA is heated in a dilute salt solution, its two strands separate because of the breakdown of complementary base pairing (melting). This strand separation is called denaturation. The temperature at which the two complementary strands separate is called the melting temperature ‘Tm’, and is affected by the percentage of G.C base pairs, ion concentration of the solution, presence of destabilising compounds like urea, and the pH of the solution (Lodish et al, 2004, p. 105).
Nucleic acid...

... middle of paper ...

...ected to a probe. These techniques can be used to distinguish between alleles that vary even by single nucleotides (“Nucleic acid hybridization assays”, 1999, Ch. 5).
Nucleic acid hybridisation is used in many routine experiments in the molecular biology laboratory, making it an indispensable requirement in genetic engineering and molecular biology.

Works Cited

“Fluorescent Probes”, n.d. Retrieved August 2, 2011 from
Lodish, H. et al., 2004. Molecular Cell Biology. W. H. Freeman, New York.
“Nucleic acid hybridization assays”, 1999. Retrieved August 2, 2011 from
Nussbaum, R. L., 2004. Thompson and Thompson genetics in medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences, n.a.

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