A matter of character

Published: Monday 15 April 1996

Most DNA particles are said to be 'characterised' -that is, they code for a specific protein or possess regulatory properties. However, certain uncharacterised material in the form of short DNA sequences are also carried to the new organism in the course of the transfer of DNA from one organism to another.

The earlier belief that only long DNA sequences are problematic has been disproved by a gene which codes for a small molecule called microcin C7, that has the ability to inhibit protein synthesis. The existence of small genes, thus, cautions against the transfer of uncharacterised DNA (The Gene Exchange, Vo16, Nos 2 and 3).

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