Courtesy of Applied Biosystems

Target practice: Researchers can employ reporter assays to study a variety of cellular processes.

Rarely is the product of a gene readily distinguishable from the myriad mRNA and protein complements that exist in a cell at any point in time. But researchers can skirt this obstacle by placing a "reporter gene" under the same controls as the gene of interest. Reporter genes have easily measurable phenotypes that form the basis of sensitive, quantitative, and reproducible assays of eukaryotic gene expression and regulation. Specifically, researchers can use reporter genes to characterize the strength of promoters and enhancers, define the role of transcription factors, assess transfection efficiency, and measure the success of molecular cloning attempts. By fusing a reporter protein with a protein of interest, one can monitor protein trafficking, identify protein-protein interactions, or study recombination events.

Reporter genes are generally joined...

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