Glossary

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Biofilm: any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface

Culture: when used in microbiology, culture is a method of multiplying microbial organisms by letting them reproduce in predetermined culture media under controlled laboratory conditions.

Enzyme (or biocatalyst) : large biological molecule responsible for the thousands of metabolic processesthat sustain life. Enzymes are highly selective catalysts, greatly accelerating both the rate and specificity of metabolic reactions, from the digestion of food to the synthesis of DNA. Most enzymes are proteins, although some catalytic RNA molecules have been identified. Enzymes adopt a specific three-dimensional structure, and may employ organic (e.g. biotin) and inorganic (e.g. magnesium ion) cofactors to assist in catalysis.

Evolution: change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.

Genetic engineering: direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. New DNA may be inserted in the host genome by first isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence, or by synthesizing the DNA, and then inserting this construct into the host organism. Genes may be removed, or "knocked out", using a nuclease.

GMO: Genetically Modified Organism, organism that is generated through genetic engineering.

Growth medium (or culture medium): liquid or gel designed to support the growth of microorganisms or cells, or small plants. There are different types of media for growing different types of cells.

Metabolic Pathway: series of chemical reactions catalized by enzymes occurring within a cell.

Mircrobiology: study of microorganisms

Microorganisms (or microbes): microscopic organism, which may be a single cell or multicellular organism

Natural selection: gradual process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of the effect of inherited traits on the differential reproductive success of organisms interacting with their environment. It is a key mechanism of evolution.

Substrate:  molecule upon which an enzyme acts

Synthetic biology: design and construction of biological devices and systems for useful purposes. It is an area of biological research and technology that combines biology and engineering, thus often overlapping with bioengineering and biomedical engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a focus on engineering biology and biotechnology.