Molecular Cloning - History of Molecular Cloning

History of Molecular Cloning

Prior to the 1970s, our understanding of genetics and molecular biology was severely hampered by an inability to isolate and study individual genes from complex organisms. This changed dramatically with the advent of molecular cloning methods. Microbiologists, seeking to understand the molecular mechanisms through which bacteria restricted the growth of bacteriophage, isolated restriction endonucleases, enzymes that could cleave DNA molecules only when specific DNA sequences were encountered. They showed that restriction enzymes cleaved chromosome-length DNA molecules at specific locations, and that specific sections of the larger molecule could be purified by size fractionation. Using a second enzyme, DNA ligase, fragments generated by restriction enzymes could be joined in new combinations, termed recombinant DNA. By recombining DNA segments of interest with vector DNA, such as bacteriophage or plasmids, which naturally replicate inside bacteria, large quantities of purified recombinant DNA molecules could be produced in bacterial cultures. The first recombinant DNA molecules were generated and studied in 1972.

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