AskDefine | Define cloning

Dictionary Definition

cloning n : a general term for the research activity that creates a copy of some biological entity (a gene or organism or cell)

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of clone


  1. The production of a cloned embryo by transplanting the nucleus of a somatic cell into an ovum
  2. In the context of "by extension": The production of an exact copy of an object


Extensive Definition

Cloning is the process of making an identical copy of something. In biology, it collectively refers to processes used to create copies of DNA fragments (molecular cloning), cells (cell cloning), or organisms. The term also covers when organisms such as bacteria, insects or plants reproduce asexually.


The term clone is derived from κλών, the Greek word for "twig, branch", referring to the process whereby a new plant can be created from a twig. In horticulture, the spelling clon was used until the twentieth century; the final e came into use to indicate the vowel is a "long o" instead of a "short o" . Since the term entered the popular lexicon in a more general context, the spelling clone has been used exclusively.

Molecular cloning

Molecular cloning refers to the procedure of isolating a defined DNA sequence and obtaining multiple copies of it. Cloning is frequently used to amplify DNA fragments containing genes, but it can be used to amplify any DNA sequence such as promoters, non-coding sequences and randomly fragmented DNA. It is used in a wide array of biological experiments and practical applications such as large scale protein production. Occasionally, the term cloning is misleadingly used to refer to the identification of the chromosomal location of a gene associated with a particular phenotype of interest, such as in positional cloning. In practice, localization of the gene to a chromosome or genomic region does not necessarily enable one to isolate or amplify the relevant genomic sequence.
In practice, in order to amplify any DNA sequence in a living organism, that sequence must be linked to an origin of replication, which is a sequence of DNA capable of directing the propagation of itself and any linked sequence. However, a number of other features are needed and a variety of specialised cloning vectors exist that allow protein expression, tagging, single stranded RNA and DNA production and a host of other manipulations.
Cloning of any DNA fragment essentially involves four steps: fragmentation, ligation, transfection, and screening/selection. Although these steps are invariable among cloning procedures a number of alternative routes can be selected, these are summarized as a ‘cloning strategy’.
Initially, the DNA of interest needs to be isolated to provide a DNA segment of suitable size. Subsequently, a ligation procedure is used where the amplified fragment is inserted into a vector. The vector (which is frequently circular) is linearised using restriction enzymes, and incubated with the fragment of interest under appropriate conditions with an enzyme called DNA ligase. Following ligation the vector with the insert of interest is transfected into cells. A number of alternative techniques are available, such as chemical sensitivation of cells, electroporation and biolistics. Finally, the transfected cells are cultured. As the aforementioned procedures are of particularly low efficiency, there is a need to identify the cells that have been successfully transfected with the vector construct containing the desired insertion sequence in the required orientation. Modern cloning vectors include selectable antibiotic resistance markers, which allow only cells in which the vector has been transfected, to grow. Additionally, the cloning vectors may contain colour selection markers which provide blue/white screening (α-factor complementation) on X-gal medium. Nevertheless, these selection steps do not absolutely guarantee that the DNA insert is present in the cells obtained. Further investigation of the resulting colonies is required to confirm that cloning was successful. This may be accomplished by means of PCR, restriction fragment analysis and/or DNA sequencing.

Cellular cloning

Cloning a cell means to derive a population of cells from a single cell. In the case of unicellular organisms such as bacteria and yeast, this process is remarkably simple and essentially only requires the inoculation of the appropriate medium. However, in the case of cell cultures from multi-cellular organisms, cell cloning is an arduous task as these cells will not readily grow in standard media.
A useful tissue culture technique used to clone distinct lineages of cell lines involves the use of cloning rings (cylinders). According to this technique, a single-cell suspension of cells which have been exposed to a mutagenic agent or drug used to drive selection is plated at high dilution to create isolated colonies; each arising from a single and potentially clonally distinct cell. At an early growth stage when colonies consist of only a few of cells, sterile polystyrene rings (cloning rings), which have been dipped in grease are placed over an individual colony and a small amount of trypsin is added. Cloned cells are collected from inside the ring and transferred to a new vessel for further growth.

Cloning in stem cell research

Somatic cell nuclear transfer can also be used to create a clonal embryo. The most likely purpose for this is to produce embryos for use in research, particularly stem cell research. This process is also called "research cloning" or "therapeutic cloning." The goal is not to create cloned human beings, but rather to harvest stem cells that can be used to study human development and to potentially treat disease. While a clonal human blastocyst has been created, stem cell lines are yet to be isolated from a clonal source.

Organism cloning

Organism cloning refers to the procedure of creating a new multicellular organism, genetically identical to another. In essence this form of cloning is an asexual method of reproduction, where fertilization or inter-gamete contact does not take place. Asexual reproduction is a naturally occurring phenomenon in many species, including most plants (see vegetative reproduction) and some insects.


The term clone is used in horticulture to mean all descendants of a single plant, produced by vegetative reproduction or apomixis. Many horticultural plant cultivars are clones, having been derived from a single individual, multiplied by some process other than sexual reproduction. As an example, some European cultivars of grapes represent clones that have been propagated for over two millennia. Other examples are potato and banana. Grafting can be regarded as cloning, since all the shoots and branches coming from the graft are genetically a clone of a single individual, but this particular kind of cloning has not come under ethical scrutiny and is generally treated as an entirely different kind of operation. Grafting, and hence cloning, of apples, pears, peaches, almonds, and persimmons can be traced back at least to 5000BC, as performed by the Chinese diplomat Feng Li.
Many trees, shrubs, vines, ferns and other herbaceous perennials form clonal colonies. Parts of a large clonal colony often become detached from the parent, termed fragmentation, to form separate individuals. Some plants also form seeds asexually, termed apomixis, e.g. dandelion.


Clonal derivation exists in nature in some animal species and is referred to as parthenogenesis. An example is the "Little Fire Ant" (Wasmannia auropunctata), which is native to Central and South America but has spread throughout many tropical environments.

Reproductive cloning

Reproductive cloning uses "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT) to create animals that are genetically identical. This process entails the transfer of a nucleus from a donor adult cell (somatic cell) to an egg which has no nucleus. If the egg begins to divide normally it is transferred into the uterus of the surrogate mother.
Such clones are not strictly identical since the somatic cells may contain mutations in their nuclear DNA. Additionally, the mitochondria in the cytoplasm also contains DNA and during SCNT this DNA is wholly from the donor egg, thus the mitochondrial genome is not the same as that of the nucleus donor cell from which it was produced. This may have important implications for cross-species nuclear transfer in which nuclear-mitochondrial incompatibilities may lead to death.
cloning in Arabic: استنساخ
cloning in Bengali: ক্লোনিং
cloning in Bulgarian: Клониране
cloning in Catalan: Clonació
cloning in Czech: Klonování
cloning in Danish: Kloning
cloning in German: Klonen
cloning in Modern Greek (1453-): Κλωνοποίηση
cloning in Spanish: Clonación
cloning in Esperanto: Klonado
cloning in Persian: همتاسازی
cloning in French: Clonage
cloning in Galician: Clonación
cloning in Croatian: Kloniranje
cloning in Indonesian: Kloning
cloning in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Clonage
cloning in Italian: Clonazione (genetica)
cloning in Hebrew: שיבוט
cloning in Lojban: mivyfu'i
cloning in Malayalam: ക്ലോണിംഗ്
cloning in Dutch: Klonen
cloning in Japanese: クローニング
cloning in Norwegian: Kloning
cloning in Polish: Klonowanie
cloning in Portuguese: Clonagem
cloning in Russian: Клонирование (биотехнология)
cloning in Serbian: Клонирање
cloning in Serbo-Croatian: Kloniranje
cloning in Sundanese: Kloning
cloning in Finnish: Kloonaus
cloning in Swedish: Kloning
cloning in Tamil: படியெடுப்பு
cloning in Turkish: Klonlama
cloning in Urdu: تنسیل
cloning in Chinese: 克隆
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