An expression vector, otherwise known as an expression construct, is generally a plasmid that is used to introduce a specific gene into a target cell. Once the expression vector is inside the cell, the protein that is encoded by the gene is produced by the cellular-transcription and translation machinery ribosomal complexes. The plasmid is frequently engineered to contain regulatory sequences that act as enhancer and promoter regions and lead to efficient transcription of the gene carried on the expression vector. The goal of a well-designed expression vector is the production of large amounts of stable messenger RNA, and therefore proteins. Expression vectors are basic tools for biotechnology and the production of proteins such as insulin that are important for medical treatments of specific diseases like diabetes.
After expression of the gene product, the purification of the protein is required; but since the vector is introduced to a host cell, the protein of interest should be purified from the proteins of the host cell. Therefore, to make the purification process easy, the cloned gene should have a tag. This tag could be histidine (His) tag or any other marker peptide.
Expression vectors are used for molecular biology techniques such as site-directed mutagenesis. Cloning vectors, which are very similar to expression vectors, involve the same process of introducing a new gene into a plasmid, but the plasmid is then added into bacteria for replication purposes. In general, DNA vectors that are used in many molecular-biology gene-cloning experiments need not result in the expression of a protein.
Expression vectors must have expression signals such as a strong promoter, a strong termination codon, adjustment of the distance between the promoter and the cloned gene, and the insertion of a transcription termination sequence and a PTIS (portable translation initiation sequence).
Some Common Uses
In recent years, expression vectors have been used to introduce specific genes in organisms, especially plants used in agriculture. Expression vectors have been used to introduce a vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, into rice plants. This product is called golden rice. This process has also been used to introduce a gene into plants that produces an insecticide, called Bacillus thuringiensis toxin or Bt toxin which reduces the need for farmers to apply insecticides since it is produced by the modified organism. In addition expression vectors are used to extend the ripeness of tomatoes by altering the plant so that it produces less of the chemical that causes the tomatoes to rot. There has been controversy over using expression vectors to modify crops due to the fact that there are unknown health risks, possibilities of companies patenting certain crops, and ethical concerns. Nevertheless, this techniqus is still being used and heavily researched.
1. ^ sci.sdsu.edu
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