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Glossary of terms

amino acids

The molecular building blocks for proteins.


Technology for working with biological systems. Includes genetic engineering, human and veterinary medicine, crop and animal breeding, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, forensics, etc.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)

A soil bacterium that produces insecticidal proteins. The Bt protein has been introduced into various crops as a built-in insecticide.


A linear structure in the nucleus of plants and animals that is visible in light microscopy when stained. The chromosome is a single, long, linear molecule of DNA and associated proteins.


Deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecule that stores genetic information. Composed of two complementary strands.


An “event” in genetic engineering is the insertion of a particular piece of foreign DNA into the chromosome of the recipient. Insertion occurs in random locations, so each event is unique. The event can affect how a gene is expressed in the organism. Once an event occurs, the transgene can be passed to the next generation as a normally inherited gene.


A set of molecular markers sufficiently diverse to identify particular individuals with reasonable certainty.


The basic unit of inheritance. A segment of DNA that codes for a particular protein.

genetic engineering

The process of modifying organisms to obtain desired traits by incorporating recombinant DNA from native, alien or synthetic sources. The term is usually reserved for in vitro recombinant DNA techniques.

molecular markers

Genetic traits which are detectable on gels or blots and can be used to construct genetic maps. Molecular markers usually have no known function.


A spontaneous or induced genetic change in the DNA of an organism. Most mutations are undesirable, but a few are useful such as dwarfing genes in cereal crops that allow the plants to stand better.


A cellular organelle in plants and animals that contains the chromosomes which in turn are composed of DNA plus protein.


A segment of DNA near the beginning of a gene that controls if and when the gene is actually expressed. Promoters can be specific for certain tissues such as roots, seeds, etc.


Def. 1. In classical genetics, an organism containing a combination of alleles different from either parent. Def. 2. In molecular genetics, a DNA molecule containing a novel sequence.


Noun: the particular order of nucleotides in a DNA or RNA fragment. Verb: to determine the particular order of nucleotides in a strand of DNA.


An organism that has incorporated a functional foreign gene through recombinant DNA technology. The novel gene exists in all of its cells and is passed through to progeny. Same as genetically modified organism (GMO).



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