Biotechnology: Applications

Recombinant DNA in Environmental Conservation

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Content Contributors
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Ben Whitten

Learning Objectives

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Why is recombinant DNA used in environmental conservation?
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Environmental pollution is a major threat that affects the biodiversity of different ecosystems and public health across the world, and pollution cannot currently be tackled using conventional technology measures as these methods are expensive, ineffective, and inefficient.


Two different types of ways in which rDNA is used in environmental conservation is for;


  • Bioremediation

  • Biodegradation

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What is bioremediation?
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Bioremediation is the term used to describe the consumption and breakdown of environmental pollutants, either by introduced microorganisms or naturally occurring organisms. The purpose of bioremediation is to treat contaminated water and soil, i.e. the effects of pollution. To assist with bioremediation, environmental conditions will often be altered in order to stimulate the rapid growth of microorganisms for the breakdown of a pollutant.


Recombinant DNA (and RNA) technologies have enabled different types of genetically engineered microbes to be developed to remove heavy metals and toxic substances from contaminated sites.

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What is biodegradation?
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Biodegradation is the term used to describe the breakdown of an organic substance/s through the use of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi etc.) through means of decomposition. Recombinant DNA technology can be used to encode genes into plasmids to assist in the bioremediation of environmental pollutants.

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