An Overview of Genetic Analysis
An organism’s physical traits, or phenotype, are a product of its genotype, which is the combination of alleles (gene variants) inherited from its parents. To varying degrees, genes interact with each other and environmental factors to generate traits. The distribution of alleles and traits within a population is influenced by a number of factors, including natural selection, migration, and random genetic drift.
In this video, JoVE introduces some of the foundational discoveries in genetics, from Gregor Mendel’s elucidation of the genetic basis of inheritance, to how natural processes affect allele distributions within populations, to the modern synthesis of biology that brought together Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolution. We then review the questions asked by geneticists today regarding how genes influence traits, and some of the main tools used to answer these questions. Finally, several applications of techniques such as genetic crosses, screens and evolution experiments will be presented.…
To dissect genetic processes or create organisms with novel suites of traits, scientists can perform genetic crosses, or the purposeful mating of two organisms. The recombination of parental genetic material in the offspring allows researchers to deduce the functions, interactions, and locations of genes.
This video will examine how genetic crosses were influential in developing Mendel's three laws of inheritance, which form the basis of our understanding of genetics. One genetic crossing technique that was first developed for single-celled organisms such as yeast, known as tetrad analysis, will then be presented in detail, followed by some examples of how this classical tool is used in genetic studies today. …
Genetic screens are critical tools for defining gene function and understanding gene interactions. Screens typically involve mutating genes and then assessing the affected organisms for phenotypes of interest. The process can be “forward”, where mutations are generated randomly to identify unknown genes responsible for the phenotypes, or it can be “reverse”, where specific genes are targeted for mutation to observe what phenotypes are produced.Here, JoVE reviews various types of genetic screens, including those that depend on either loss-of-function or gain-of-function mutations, which respectively decrease or increase the activity of genes. We then explore general protocols for forward and reverse screens in a popular model organism, the nematode worm. Finally, we highlight how screens are applied in research today, for example to better understand gene interactions that may contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.…
An Overview of Genetics and Disease
Many human diseases are associated with mutations or variations in genetic sequences. Some of these genetic variants are heritable, passed down from generation to generation, while others arise sporadically during an organism’s life and cause diseases such as cancer. Researchers are trying to identify and characterize these genetic alterations in the hopes of improving diagnosis and therapeutic options for patients.
In this video, we will examine the history of genetic disease research, and explore key questions asked by medical geneticists. Various tools used to identify the genetic basis of diseases are then discussed, including genotyping techniques and genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Finally, several current examples of medical genetics research are presented.…
Single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, are the most common form of genetic variation in humans. These differences at individual bases in the DNA often do not directly affect gene expression, but in many cases can still be useful for locating disease-associated genes or for diagnosing patients. Numerous methodologies have been established to identify, or “genotype”, SNPs.
JoVE’s introduction to SNP Genotyping begins by discussing what SNPs are and how they can be used to identify disease-associated genes. Several common SNP genotyping methods are then examined, including direct hybridization, PCR-based methods, fragment analysis, and sequencing. Finally, we present several examples of how these techniques are applied to genetic research today.…
Cytogenetics is the field of study devoted to chromosomes, and involves the direct observation of a cell’s chromosomal number and structure, together known as its karyotype. Many chromosomal abnormalities are associated with disease. Each chromosome in a karyotype can be stained with a variety of dyes to give unique banding patterns. More recent techniques, including comparative genomic hybridization and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), allow for detecting specific chromosomal features or abnormalities.This video will begin by examining the principles of these classical and modern cytogenetics techniques. This is followed by an examination of a general protocol for performing FISH. Finally, several examples of how karyotyping can be applied to various medical applications are presented.…
An Overview of Gene Expression
Gene expression is the complex process where a cell uses its genetic information to make functional products. This process is regulated at multiple stages, and any misregulation could lead to diseases such as cancer.
This video highlights important historical discoveries relating to gene expression, including the understanding of how distinct combinations of DNA bases encode the amino acids that make up proteins. Key questions in the field of gene expression research are explored, followed by a discussion of several techniques used to measure gene expression and investigate its regulation. Finally, we look at how scientists are currently using these techniques to study gene expression.…
Expression Profiling with Microarrays
Microarrays are important tools for profiling gene expression, and are based on complementary binding between probes that are attached to glass chips and nucleic acids derived from samples. Using these arrays, scientists can simultaneously evaluate the expression of thousands of genes. In addition, the expression profiles of different cells or tissue types can be compared, allowing researchers to deduce how the expression of different genes change during biological processes, and thus gain insight into how the genes may function in pathways or networks.Here, JoVE explains the principles behind microarrays. This is followed by a general protocol for performing a microarray experiment, and a brief introduction to analyzing microarray data. We end on a discussion of how scientists are currently using microarrays, for example to compare gene expression between different cell types derived from cancerous and non-cancerous tissues, to study important biological problems.…
Among different methods to evaluate gene expression, the high-throughput sequencing of RNA, or RNA-seq. is particularly attractive, as it can be performed and analyzed without relying on prior available genomic information. During RNA-seq, RNA isolated from samples of interest is used to generate a DNA library, which is then amplified and sequenced. Ultimately, RNA-seq can determine which genes are expressed, the levels of their expression, and the presence of any previously unknown transcripts.Here, JoVE presents the basic principles behind RNA-seq. We then discuss the experimental and analytical steps of a general RNA-seq protocol. Finally, we examine how researchers are currently using RNA-seq, for example, to compare gene expression between different biological samples, or to characterize protein-RNA interactions.…
An Overview of Epigenetics
Since the early days of genetics research, scientists have noted certain heritable phenotypic differences that are not due to differences in the nucleotide sequence of DNA. Current evidence suggests that these “epigenetic” phenomena might be controlled by a number of mechanisms, including the modification of DNA cytosine bases with methyl groups, the addition of various chemical groups to histone proteins, and the recruitment of protein factors to specific DNA sites via interactions with non-protein-coding RNAs.In this video, JoVE presents the history of important discoveries in epigenetics, such as X-chromosome inactivation (XCI), the phenomenon where an entire X-chromosome is silenced in the cells of female mammals. Key questions and methods in the field are reviewed, including techniques to identify DNA sequences associated with different epigenetic modifications. Finally, we discuss how researchers are currently using these techniques to better understand the epigenetic regulation of gene function.…
DNA Methylation Analysis
Methylation at CpG dinucleotides is a chemical modification of DNA hypothesized to play important roles in regulating gene expression. In particular, the methylation of clusters of methylation sites, called “CpG islands”, near promoters and other gene regulatory elements may contribute to the stable silencing of genes, for example, during epigenetic processes such as genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. At the same time, aberrant CpG methylation has been shown to be associated with cancer.In this video, the biological functions and mechanisms of DNA methylation will be presented, along with various techniques used to identify methylation sites in the genome. We will then examine the steps of bisulfite analysis, one of the most commonly used methods for detecting DNA methylation, as well as several applications of this technique.…
Histones are proteins that help organize DNA in eukaryotic nuclei by serving as “scaffolds” around which DNA can be wrapped, forming a complex called “chromatin”. These proteins can be modified through the addition of chemical groups, and these changes affect gene expression. Researchers use a technique called chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) to better understand which DNA regions associate with specific histone modifications or other gene regulatory proteins. Antibodies are used to isolate the protein of interest, and the bound DNA is extracted for analysis. Here, JoVE presents the principles behind ChIP, discussing specific histone modifications and their relationship to gene expression and DNA organization. We then review how to perform a ChIP protocol, and explore the ways scientists are currently using this technique.…
An Overview of Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering – the process of purposefully altering an organism’s DNA – has been used to create powerful research tools and model organisms, and has also seen many agricultural applications. However, in order to engineer traits to tackle complex agricultural problems such as stress tolerance, or to realize the promise of gene therapy for treating human diseases, further advances in the field are still needed. Important considerations include the safe and efficient delivery of genetic constructs into cells or organisms, and the establishment of the desired modification in an organism’s genome with the least “off-target” effects. JoVE’s Overview of Genetic Engineering will present a history of the field, highlighting the discoveries that confirmed DNA as the genetic material and led to the development of tools to modify DNA. Key questions that must be answered in order to improve the process of genetic engineering will then be introduced, along with various tools used by genetic engineers. Finally, we will survey several applications demonstrating the types of experimental questions and strategies in the field today.…
Recombineering and Gene Targeting
One of the most widely used tools in modern biology is molecular cloning with restriction enzymes, which create compatible ends between DNA fragments that allow them to be joined together. However, this technique has certain restrictions that limit its applicability for large or complex DNA construct generation. A newer technique that addresses some of these shortcomings is recombineering, which modifies DNA using homologous recombination (HR), the exchange between different DNA molecules based on stretches of similar or identical sequences. Together with gene targeting, which takes advantage of endogenous HR to alter an organism’s genome at a specific loci, HR-based cloning techniques have greatly improved the speed and efficacy of high-throughput genetic engineering.In this video, we introduce the principles of HR, as well as the basic components required to perform a recombineering experiment, including recombination-competent organisms and genomic libraries such as bacterial artificial chromosomes (BAC). We then walk through a protocol that uses recombineering to generate a gene-targeting vector that can ultimately be transfected into embryonic stem cells to generate a transgenic animal. Finally, several applications that highlight the utility and variety of recombineering techniques will be presented.…
A well-established technique for modifying specific sequences in the genome is gene targeting by homologous recombination, but this method can be laborious and only works in certain organisms. Recent advances have led to the development of “genome editing”, which works by inducing double-strand breaks in DNA using engineered nuclease enzymes guided to target genomic sites by either proteins or RNAs that recognize specific sequences. When a cell attempts to repair this damage, mutations can be introduced into the targeted DNA region. In this video, JoVE explains the principles behind genome editing, emphasizing how this technique relates to DNA repair mechanisms. Then, three major genome editing methods—zinc finger nucleases, TALENs, and the CRISPR-Cas9 system—are reviewed, followed by a protocol for using CRISPR to create targeted genetic changes in mammalian cells. Finally, we discuss some current research that applies genome editing to alter the genetic material in model organisms or cultured cells.…