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DNA / RNA Manipulation and Analysis

The Basics: How Phenol Extraction of DNA Works

Phenol extraction is a commonly used method for removing proteins from a DNA sample, e.g. to remove proteins from cell lysate during genomic DNA preparation. It’s commonly used, but not commonly understood. If you want to know how it works so you can show off to all of your friends… read on. The basic protocol…

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5 DNA Ligation Tips

DNA ligations can be frustrating. Sometimes they don’t work for no obvious reason. Our top 5 DNA ligation tips should improve the efficiency of your ligations, and will hopefully increase your cloning success rate! 1. Aliquot the ligase buffer The ATP in the ligase buffer is essential for the DNA ligation reaction, but is broken down…

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Southern (blot) exposure remains a useful technique

At a meeting recently, I asked two PhD molecular biologists about the last time they used a Southern blot. After nearly a minute of unrestrained laughter, they asked “Who on earth still does that?” “Maybe for a very, very specific use,” conjectured one of the scientists. When I asked the scientist who taught me the…

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How to Cheat QuikChange™

Generating a DNA vector library of single and/or compound mutants for a target protein can be a daunting task. If you’re lucky and work in a well-funded lab, you might outsource this process via gene synthesis. Most of us though, need to do it the old-fashioned way. Traditional QuikChange™ Traditionally, there are many steps you…

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Retroviruses – Friends or Foes?

The word ‘retrovirus’ evokes images of HIV, the AIDS pandemic and a desperate worldwide effort to defeat this mighty adversary. But on the flip side, scientific research has managed to tame the virus and use it as a tool for advancement. Retroviruses are commonly used to introduce genes into mammalian cells to express or knockdown…

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Don’t Clone Alone: A Comparison Between SnapGene and Genome Compiler

There are several software platforms that exist today to help molecular biologists and genetic engineers think about and execute their research for grander hypotheses, more immediate results and the production of masses of data. After recently reading the article “Vector NTI Vs Genome Compiler,” I’ve continued this comparison with another conventional, widely adopted DNA design…

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4 Tips for Extracting RNA from Unfriendly Tissues

Some tissues are tricky to work with. This truth was lost on me in the early years of grad school because I worked with liver samples. If you’re extracting RNA from liver samples, you’re likely not losing sleep over your massive RNA yields. But for the folks doing RNA extractions with less willing donors, such…

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Six Facts About Restriction Enzymes

When restrictions come in the form of paperwork and approvals, we detest them. Whereas, when the restrictions come in the form of enzymes, we love them, don’t we? Restriction enzymes play a key role in biotechnology research. Read ahead for six useful facts about restriction enzymes.  1.  Restriction enzymes are helpful to bacteria Restriction enzymes…

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Faster, Even Cooler DNA Gels!

When I began a master’s program in 2008, the lab task I hated more than anything was running agarose gels for DNA. Something so simple, ubiquitous, and necessary gobbled up more hours in the lab than I care to remember. Even though we added the DNA stain directly to the molten agarose and didn’t have…

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5 Tips on Vector Preparation for Gene Cloning

One of the most crucial steps in any cloning procedure is the preparation of the vector. Get it wrong and your chances of success will be drastically reduced. The overall aim for a good vector preparation is to obtain a fairly concentrated stock of undamaged, fully digested plasmid DNA that is free from contaminants. Missing…

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Comparing Viral Vector Expression Systems

Some viral vectors are the little black dresses of cloning and expression experiments: They work for almost any occasion and always give you the results you were hoping for. Other vectors are more like ballgowns that only come out of storage for special occasions. Let’s wade through all the information out there and take a…

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Cloning Methods: 5 Different Ways to Assemble

Over the past few decades molecular biologists have developed procedures to simplify and standardize cloning processes, allowing vast arrays of artificial DNA structures to be more easily assembled. Are you familiar with all the cloning options out there? Let’s look at five different cloning methods you can use to get your construct. At the end…

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Quick reference: Determining DNA Concentration & Purity

The most comprehensive way to evaluate DNA concentration and purity is to use both UV spectrophotometeric measurements and agarose gel eletrophoresis. This quick reference guide gives an overview of the information that can be derived from both. UV spectrophotometric measurement of DNA concentration and purity DNA itself, and most of the common contaminants found in…

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