Transformation is the process by which an organism acquires exogenous DNA. Transformation can occur in two ways: natural transformation and artificial transformation. Natural transformation describes the uptake and incorporation of naked DNA from the cell’s natural environment. Artificial transformation encompasses a wide array of methods for inducing uptake of exogenous DNA. In cloning protocols, artificial transformation is used to introduce recombinant DNA into host bacteria (E. coli). The most common method of artificial transformation of bacteria involves use of divalent cations (e.g., calcium chloride) to increase the permeability of the bacterium’s membrane, making them chemically competent, thereby increasing the likelihood of DNA acquisition. Another artificial method of transformation is electroporation, in which cells are shocked with an electric current, to create holes in the bacterial membrane. With a newly-compromised cell membrane, the transforming DNA is free to pass into the cytosol of the bacterium. Regardless of which method of transformation is used, outgrowth of bacteria following transformation allows repair of the bacterial surface and selection of recombinant cells if the newly acquired DNA conveys antibiotic resistance to the transformed cells.

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