recombination, process of "shuffling" of genes by which new combinations can be generated. In recombination through sexual reproduction, the offspring's complete set of genes differs from that of either parent, being rather a combination of genes from both parents. In recombination by crossing over, alleles of genes are exchanged between homologous chromosomes during meiosis. This exchange results in the generation of new combinations of alleles on segments of chromosomes, counteracting the tendency of linked genes, i.e., genes on the same chromosome, to be always transmitted as a group. Various mechanisms for introducing new genetic material have been discovered in bacteria. These mechanisms have been used extensively to study gene structure and function. In transformation, a fragment of free deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is inserted in a recipient bacterium (see nucleic acid). The free DNA fragment comes from the chromosome of a bacterial cell that has been lysed, or dissolved. In transduction, genetic material is transferred from one bacterium to another by a carrier virus. When a virus enters a bacterium, its DNA can be inserted into the bacterial chromosome, reproducing along with the host chromosome in cell division. Subsequently, sometimes many bacterial generations later, the viral genetic material may detach from the bacterial chromosome, taking some of the bacterial chromosomal material along with it. The bacterium then lyses, the viral particle enters a new bacterium, and the viral particle, together with the bacterial genes it carries, is inserted into the chromosome of the new host. In conjugation, which occurs between bacteria of the same species and also between some bacteria of different species, either an entire chromosome or a part of one is transferred from a bacterium of a donor-mating strain to a bacterium of a recipient-mating strain. Donor strains, denoted male, contain a sex-factor particle composed of a nucleic acid; recipient, or female, strains lack the particle (see episome). Conjugation has been used to construct genetic maps, i.e., the ordering of genes along a chromosome. Evidence from transformation experiments was used to support the idea that DNA was the genetic material.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.