86 Zero to Genetic Engineering Hero - Chapter 4 - Genetic Engineering Your E. coli Cells
Genetic Engineering Your E. coli Cells
You have now extracted DNA from fruit cells. You have
made LB agar plates. You have grown K12 E. coli cells
using two different methods: streaking them onto a
plate to get fresh bacteria paint and by painting them
to create living BioArt.
Consider your BioArt for a moment. Did it turn out
the way you expected? Painting with bacteria can
be challenging because the cells can grow beyond
where you’ve painted, distorting the image. As with all
science and art skills, practice makes perfect!
In this chapter you are going to use the skills, you
developed in Chapter 3 to take the next step on your
genetic engineering journey. You are going to streak
and grow cells in order to engineer them with DNA.
You will change the actual blueprints of the cells so
that they create something for you. This is the basis
of genetic engineering.
In practical terms, you are going to learn how to insert
DNA into cells and have the cells read and execute
the instructions encoded in the new DNA. This won’t
require you to replace the genome of the K12 bacte-
ria. Instead, you will be adding some additional DNA,
called a DNA plasmid, into the cells. Once inserted,
the bacteria will start to read and execute the DNA
from the plasmid, just as they will continue to read
and execute their normal genome “programming”.
The Fundamentals in this chapter will build on every-
thing you’ve learned in prior chapters. We will look
at how a cell reads DNA and begins ‘executing’ the
instructions to create something, a product, for
you. The process of reading a DNA plasmid is called
transcription, and it is one of the most important
processes in biology. All of this happens on the
“factory oor” in the cytoplasm of your K12 E. coli and
mostly involves nucleic acids and proteins.
Just as you were introduced to the concept of genes in
Chapter 1, in this chapter, you are going to learn rst-
hand how to insert genes into your K12 E. coli bacteria.
Once the gene is inserted via a plasmid, we will learn
how the cell reads the gene in order to start creating,
or microfacturing something for you. Scientists also
call this “expressing a trait”. “Microfacturing” is a
term that we use a lot throughout this book, but it is
rather new to the eld of genetic engineering! Since
you imagine the cell as a microscopic factory (micro-
factory), think of its activities as microfacturing.
Learning these subjects is the foundation of genetic
engineering and critical to becoming a Genetic Engi-
neering Hero. Once you understand how to insert DNA
into a cell and how a cell reads and executes a “DNA
program”, you’ll be on your way to learn advanced
subjects like designing, making and executing your
own “DNA programs.”
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