Transformation of Cells

Transformation of Cells

Overview and Definition

  • Transformation in biology is the process by which the genetic makeup of a cell is changed by introduction of DNA from the external environment.
  • This process is common in certain bacteria and allows them to adapt and survive under various conditions.
  • The inserted foreign DNA sequence may alter the cell’s function or generate a new characteristic.

Process of Transformation

  • DNA from the environment is taken up by a competent bacterial cell.
  • In some bacteria, competence for transformation is natural and may be induced by environmental conditions such as starvation or during specific phases of growth.
  • In laboratory settings, bacterial cells are usually made competent artificially through heat-shock or chemical treatment.
  • Once inside the cell, the foreign DNA incorporates itself into the host chromosome which may result in a change of function in the bacterium.

Uses of Transformation

  • Transformation is utilized extensively in genetic engineering to introduce new genes into bacteria for the production of useful substances like insulin.
  • This process is also used to create recombinant DNA for studying gene functions and for mapping of the genome.
  • Other applications include production of genetically modified organisms and the study of DNA repair mechanisms in cells.

Limitations and Advantages

  • The rate of successful transformation can be low as not all cells are naturally competent and artificial competence has limitations.
  • However, the use of antibiotics to select for transformed cells greatly enhances the success rate in the lab setting.
  • Transformation allows for rapid evolution of bacteria, contributing to their survival.
  • It is beneficial for scientific progress as it offers a tool for studying genes and for creating genetically modified organisms.