- DNA fingerprinting
—DNA fingerprint.the use of a DNA probe for the identification of an individual, as for the matching of genes from a forensic sample with those of a criminal suspect.Also called genetic fingerprinting.[1985-90]
* * *Method developed by the British geneticist Alec Jeffreysborn 1950in 1984 for isolating and making images of sequences of DNA.The procedure consists of obtaining a sample of cells containing DNA (e.g., from skin, blood, or hair), extracting the DNA, and purifying it. The DNA is then cut by enzymes, and the resulting fragments of varying lengths undergo procedures that permit them to be analyzed. The pattern of fragments is unique for each individual. DNA fingerprinting is used to help solve crimes and determine paternity; it is also used to locate gene segments that cause genetic diseases, to map the genetic material of humans (see Human Genome Project), to engineer drought-resistant plants (see genetic engineering), and to produce biological drugs from genetically altered cells.
* * *also called DNA typingin genetics, method of isolating and making images of sequences of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The technique was developed in 1984 by the British geneticist Alec Jeffreys, after he noticed the existence of certain sequences of DNA (called minisatellites) that do not contribute to the function of a gene but are repeated within the gene and in other genes of a DNA sample. Jeffreys also determined that each organism has a unique pattern of these minisatellites, the only exception being multiple individuals from a single zygote (e.g., identical twins).The procedure for creating a DNA fingerprint consists of first obtaining a sample of cells containing DNA (e.g., from skin, blood, or hair), extracting the DNA, and purifying it. The DNA is then cut at specific points along the strand with substances called restriction enzymes (restriction enzyme). This produces fragments of varying lengths that are sorted by placing them on a gel and then subjecting the gel to an electric current ( electrophoresis): the shorter the fragment the more quickly it will move toward the positive pole (anode). The sorted, double-stranded DNA fragments are then subjected to a blotting technique in which they are split into single strands and transferred to a nylon sheet. The fragments undergo autoradiography in which they are exposed to DNA probes—pieces of synthetic DNA that have been made radioactive and that bind to the minisatellites. A piece of X-ray film is then exposed to the fragments, and a dark mark is produced at any point where a radioactive probe has become attached. The resultant pattern of these marks can then be analyzed.An early use of DNA fingerprinting was in legal disputes, notably to help solve crimes and determine paternity. The technique was challenged, however, over concerns about sample contamination, faulty preparation procedures, and erroneous interpretation of the results. Efforts have been made to improve reliability.If only a small amount of DNA is available for fingerprinting, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) may be used to create thousands of copies of a DNA segment. PCR is an automated procedure in which certain oligonucleotide primers are used to repeatedly duplicate specific segments of DNA. Once an adequate amount of DNA has been produced, the exact sequence of nucleotide pairs in a segment of DNA can be determined using one of several biomolecular sequencing methods. New automated equipment has greatly increased the speed of DNA sequencing and made available many new practical applications, including pinpointing segments of genes that cause genetic diseases, mapping the human genome, engineering drought-resistant plants, and producing biological drugs from genetically altered bacteria.
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