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Question Video: Understanding Where Restriction Enzymes Come From Biology

From what microorganisms are restriction enzymes most commonly obtained?

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Video Transcript

From what microorganisms are restriction enzymes most commonly obtained?

This question asks us about restriction enzymes. Let’s review what restriction enzymes are and how they can be used to manipulate DNA.

Restriction enzymes are useful tools in biotechnology because they can be used to cut specific DNA sequences so they can be combined in interesting ways. They were originally discovered as a defense mechanism against viral infection in bacteria. Some viruses can infect bacterial cells by first injecting their DNA into the cell. Once the viral DNA is in the cell, the DNA can be transcribed and translated to form proteins for the virus. The DNA can also be copied. All of this is used to assemble more viruses.

So, the bacterial cell basically becomes a virus-producing factory. This continues until the cell is filled up with so much virus that it eventually bursts. Now, the virus can go on to infect other cells. Restriction enzymes were discovered in bacteria as a defense against this kind of infection. These can bind to viral DNA and cut it into pieces.

Bacterial DNA has special modifications present so restriction enzymes don’t cleave bacterial DNA. Because the viral DNA is now fragmented, it can’t be used to make a copy of itself or to make proteins for the virus. This means that the virus isn’t able to complete its lifecycle and the bacterial host cell is protected.

Therefore, to answer our question, the microorganisms where restriction enzymes are most commonly obtained are bacteria.

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