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A "normal" melon (left) after five days, and a transgenic melon (right) after fifteen days. The ability of the modified fruit to be edible for a much longer period is a trait desirable for those in the produce business.

ated, or "shot," into the cell. The particles are usually very fine gold pellets onto which the DNA has been stuck. With direct DNA absorption, a cell is bathed in the DNA, and an electric shock usually is applied ("electropo-ration") to the cell to stimulate DNA uptake.

No matter what gene insertion method is used, a series of events must occur to allow a whole genetically modified plant to be recovered from the genetically modified cell: The cell must incorporate the new DNA into its own chromosomes, the transformed cell must initiate division, the new cells need to organize themselves into all the tissues and organs of a normal plant ("regeneration"), and finally, the inserted gene must continue to work properly ("gene expression") in the regenerated plant.

To help ensure all this occurs, a "cassette" of genes is inserted during the initial transformation. In addition to the gene coding for the desired trait, other genes are added. Some of these genes promote the growth of only those plant cells that have successfully incorporated the inserted DNA. It might do this by providing the transformed cells with resistance to a normally toxic antibiotic that is added to the growth medium, for example. Other genes ("promoters") may be added to control the functioning of the trait gene by directing when and where in the transformed plant it will operate.

The genes put into plants using genetic engineering can come from any organism. Most genes used in the genetic engineering of plants have come from bacteria. However, as scientists learn more about the genetic makeup of plants ("plant genomics"), more plant-derived genes will be used.

A "normal" melon (left) after five days, and a transgenic melon (right) after fifteen days. The ability of the modified fruit to be edible for a much longer period is a trait desirable for those in the produce business.

gene expression use of a gene to create the corresponding protein promoters DNA

sequences to which RNA polymerase binds to begin transcription

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