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Basic Terminology in Biotechnology

A list of biotechnology terms (a-z)


An antigen is a substance or molecule that stimulates the production of antibodies by the immune system.


An antibody is an immunoglobulin molecule that is produced by the immune system after stimulation from an antigen. The plasma contains a mixture of antibodies synthesized to bind many different antigens (polyclonal antibodies).


Antisense refers to synthetic and chemically modified DNA or RNA molecules designed to bind and inhibit complementary, or sense, RNA molecules.

Colony-stimulating Factors (CSFs)

Colony-stimulating factors (CSFs) are glycoproteins that regulate the differentiation and proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells into white cells.


Cytokines are a group of secreted proteins that cause a signaling response to influence cell function in other cells.


DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a double-helix, nucleic acid polymer coding genetic information of a cell. DNA consists of four deoxy-nucleotide subunits: adenosine, guanosine, cytidine, and thymidine.


An enzyme is a molecule, usually a protein that catalyzes the conversion of a substrate to a product.


An epitope is the portion of an antigen that is recognized by an antibody in immune system.


A gene is a unit of heredity composed of a segment of DNA that is transcribed into RNA.

Gene splicing

The isolation of a gene from one organism and then the introduction of that gene into another organism using techniques of biotechnology.


A genome is all of the genetic information in a cell or organism


A glycoprotein is a protein molecule conjugated to a carbohydrate group.


Similar to cytokines, a hormone is an endogenous substance that is secreted by one type of cell and causes a response in another type of cell. The current distinction between a hormone and a cytokine may only be their active concentration ranges.


A hybridoma is a hybrid cell designed to secrete a single antibody (Ab) that binds only one epitope (i.e., a mAb) and produced by fusing a myeloma cell and an antibody-producing B lymphocyte.


Interleukins (ILs) are cytokines released by white cells and other cell types in response to antigen and other stimulation whose function is primarily to regulate the immune system


Interferons (IFNs) are glycoproteins produced by animal cells used to stimulate the immune response to viral or bacterial infection


A lymphokine is a cytokine produced by a lymphocyte. ILs 2-6 and TNF-  are examples of lymphokines.

Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are produced in vitro and consist of copies of a single antibody that binds a single epitope. Antibodies are part of the body’s immune system, which identifies and neutralizes foreign molecules.


An oligonucleotide is a short, usually single-stranded DNA or RNA molecule used to identify or inhibit a protein or mRNA molecule.


Pegylated refers to containing a conjugate of polyethylene glycol (PEG). PEG conjugation reduces glomerular filtration so it is often used to extend the half-life of drugs cleared by renal excretion.


Polymorphism refers to natural sequence variants of a gene.


A plasmid is a circular piece of non-chromosomal DNA that can replicate independently. Plasmids are used as vectors for the transfer and expression of rDNA.


RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a polymeric macromolecule made of ribonucleotide subunits that is used for gene regulation. RNA exists in cells as ribosomal (rRNA), transfer (tRNA), microRNA (miRNA), and messenger (mRNA). RNA also comprises the genetic material of some viruses (known as retroviruses).

Recombinant DNA

Recombinant DNA (rDNA) are hybrid DNA molecules formed when DNA fragments from diff erent sequences are joined using restriction endonucleases.

Reverse Transcriptase

Reverse transcriptase is an enzyme used by RNA viruses to transcribe viral RNA into DNA.

Tumor Necrosis Factor

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a lymphokine produced by macrophages to induce cell death.

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