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Molecular genetics


Molecular genetics is the field of biology which studies the structure and function of genes at a molecular level. Molecular genetics employs the methods of genetics and molecular biology. It is so-called to differentiate it from other sub fields of genetics such as ecological genetics and population genetics. An important area within molecular genetics is the use of molecular information to determine the patterns of descent, and therefore the correct scientific classification or organisms: this is called molecular systematics.

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Forward genetics

One of the first tools available to molecular geneticists is the forward genetic screen. The aim of this technique is to identify mutations that produce a certain phenotype. A mutagen is very often used to accelerate this process. Once mutants have been isolated, the mutated gene can be molecularly identified.

Reverse genetics

Main article: Reverse genetics

While forward genetic screens are productive, a more straightforward approach would be to determine the phenotype that results from mutating a given gene. This is called reverse genetics. In some organisms, such as yeast and mice, it is possible to induce the deletion of a particular gene, creating a gene knockout. Alternatives include the random induction of DNA deletions and subsequent selection for deletions in a gene of interest, the application of RNA interference and the creation of transgenic organisms that overexpress a gene of interest.

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