Classical recombinant DNA cloning

Ana Mikić, Arqam Alomari, Darren M. Gowers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Traditional molecular cloning involves a series of linked experimental steps performed with the overall goal of isolating (“cloning”) a specific DNA sequence—often a gene. The main purpose of cloning is to study either that DNA sequence or the RNA or protein product it encodes. Building on key enzymatic discoveries in the late 1960s, gene cloning was pioneered in the early 1970s. Since then, DNA cloning and manipulation have been used in every area of biological and biomedical research, from molecular genetics, structural biology, and developmental biology to neurobiology, ancient DNA studies, and immunology. It is a versatile technique that can be applied to a variety of starting DNA types and lengths, including cDNAs, genes, gene fragments, chromosomal regions, or shorter fragments such as PCR products and functional control regions such as enhancers or promoters. The starting DNA can originate from any cell, tissue, or organism. In this chapter we will cover traditional (“classic”) molecular cloning strategy. This comprises six linked stages in which (1) PCR is used to amplify a DNA region of interest that is then (2) digested with restriction enzymes, alongside a selected vector, to produce complementary ends crucial for the two molecules to be (3) ligated by an ATP-dependent DNA ligase, creating a recombinant DNA molecule. The recombinant DNA is then (4) introduced into competent bacterial cells by transformation and (5) grown on a selective agar media, followed by (6) colony-PCR for screening purposes. We provide a worked example to demonstrate the cloning of an average-size gene (in this case the 2 kb DNA ligase A gene) from E. coli into a common plasmid expression vector. We have included six color figures and two tables to depict the key stages of a classical molecular cloning protocol. If you are cloning a segment of DNA or a gene, remember that each DNA cloning experiment is unique in terms of sequence, length, and experimental purpose. However, the principles of traditional cloning covered in this chapter are the same for any DNA sequence; we have included a detailed notes section, so you should easily be able to transfer them to your own work. Some of the following chapters in this volume will cover other, more recently developed, cloning protocols.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDNA Manipulation and Analysis
EditorsGarry Scarlett
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherHumana Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781071630044
ISBN (Print)9781071630037
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

Publication series

NameMethods in Molecular Biology
ISSN (Print)1064-3745
ISSN (Electronic)1940-6029


  • molecular cloning
  • gene cloning
  • restriction endonucleases
  • transformation
  • bacteria

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