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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Public Lecture - What have Restriction Enzymes Ever Done for Us?

11th February 2016, 17:30 to 18:30, PG20, Pemberton Lecture Rooms, Palace Green, Dr David Dryden, University of Edinburgh


The phenomenon of restriction-modification (RM) in bacteria was first elucidated in the early 1950s and shown to be due to enzymes in the 1960s. Defined target sequences within the bacterial DNA were maintained in a methylated (modified) form by these enzymes. Foreign DNA entering the host via a viral (bacteriophage) infection usually contained unmodified target sequences. The RM enzymes recognised this and cleaved the unmodified foreign DNA into fragments.

The ability to cleave DNA in a defined manner allowed the development in the 1970s of modern molecular biology, genetic engineering and the multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry.

The rapid adoption of RM enzymes as the instrument of choice for DNA manipulation rather overshadowed the intrinsic importance of these RM enzyme systems to nature and specifically to horizontal gene transfer, the major mechanism for rapid evolution of bacteria such as MRSA, and epigenetics, the marking of chromosomal DNA to control, for example, gene expression in higher organisms.

In this lecture Dr David Dryden will show how the enzymes are used in biotechnology and also address the fundamental importance of RM systems in nature.

Open Access Reference: Highlights of the DNA cutters: a short history of the restriction enzymes. Loenen WAM, Dryden DTF, Raleigh EA, Wilson GG, Murray NE. Nucleic Acids Res. (2014) 42, 3-19.


This lecture is free and open to all.



Details about Dr David Dryden

Map - Pemberton Lecture Rooms are denoted as building No: 21

(Please note that the original venue of Leech Hall, St John's College has changed to the Pemberton Lecture Rooms)

Contact enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.