Glossary

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Agrobacteria
. Bacterial plant pathogens able to infect plants through horizontal gene transfer. The bacteria of this class are able to introduce plasmids (DNA molecules), such as for example the Ri plasmid of Agrobacterium rhizogenes and the Ti plasmid of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which respectively are the direct cause of the "hairy root disease" and “crown gall tumors” in dicots. The introduced plasmid integrates into the genome of the infected plants resulting in a stable transformation that can be transmitted to the offspring.

Advance Informed Agreement procedure (AIA). Procedure of prior approval with the compliance to the Cartagena Protocol which ensures the Party of import with access to all information needed to assess the environmental risks posed by GMOs and the opportunity to make a decision prior to import, in accordance with the precautionary approach contained in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration.

Allele. Each of the alternative forms which may occur in a gene. The most frequent allele in a population is defined wild type and differs by one or more mutations from the other alleles. The presence of alternative alleles is called polymorphism. Each eukaryotic genome contains an allele of mathernal and one of paternal origin of each gene. The individual carrying two copies of the same allele is called homozygous, if having two different alleles it is called heterozygous.

Allergens. Substances foreign to the organism, which can provoke an allergic reaction, or a hypersensitivity reaction mediated by cells of the immune system.

Amino acid. It is an organic compound containing at least one amino group (-NH2) and a carboxyl group    (-COOH). Amino acids represent the constituent units of proteins and are one of the most important classes of organic compounds for living organisms. The proteins are assembled from 20 different L-α-amino acids linked together by a peptide bond.

Antibiotics. Natural compounds obtained from microorganisms capable both to inhibit the growth and to kill other microorganisms.

Antibiotic resistance. Resistance of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts and fungi) to the bacteriostatic or bactericidal effect of one or more classes of antibiotics. This effect may be mediated by different classes of enzymes (e.g. lactamase, phosphatase, acetyl-transferase, etc.), encoded by genes generally present on plasmids or on mobile genetic elements (transposons)

Bacteriophage. Virus (or phage) infecting bacterial cells. In molecular biology, the bacteriophages are used as cloning vectors

Bacterium. Unicellular prokaryotic microorganisms whose genetic heritage is mainly  contained in a single circular molecule of DNA and is not contained in a nucleus but directly in the cytoplasm

Base pair (bp). Unit of measurement, expressed in base pairs, of the length of the double strand. nucleic acids. The relative mass of a nucleotide pair is 660 daltons

Biodiversity. "The variability among living organisms of all kinds, including, among others, the land, the sea and those of other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. This includes diversity within species, between species and diversity of ecosystems "(Article 2 Convention on Biological Diversity).


Biotechnology. Science which uses technological applications of systems and living organisms to develop or produce useful products for a specific purpose. An important branch of biotechnology makes use of recombinant DNA technology to produce in the laboratory alteration of the genome of cells or organisms by modification, insertion or deletion of one or more genes in order to obtain an organism with desired phenotypic characteristics.

Chromosome. Structural unit in which the DNA is organized in association with different proteins. Each chromosome is constituted by a single molecule of DNA containing numerous genes in a linear sequence. In prokaryotes only one chromosome is generally present, while in eukaryotic, cells have multiple chromosomes.

Clone. Population of cells or organisms with the same genotype, and thus derived from a single progenitor for asexual reproduction.

Cloning. The term cloning can have several meanings:

  1. Production of a set of identical copies (clones) of molecules, cells or organisms.
  2. Cellular cloning: creating an identical cell population by isolation of a cell, and subsequent duplication.
  3. Gene cloning: use of recombinant DNA techniques to obtain a specific DNA sequence to be inserted into a suitable vector in order to obtain the propagation in numerous copies through the clonal amplification of the cells in which this vector has been inserted.
  4. Generation of an individual with identical genetic one individual parental, in case of organisms that reproduce sexually. To this end, the diploid nucleus of a somatic cell is introduced into in a female gamete deprived of its own nucleus.

Cloning vector. A DNA molecule, natural or artificial, which has particular characteristics making it an effective tool for gene cloning. A vector can be cut and ligate through specific enzymes, allowing the insertion or deletion of DNA fragments. Once generated, the vector may be inserted into a body in which it can be duplicated multiple times allowing the obtainment of clones.  

Complementary DNA. (CDNA) molecule of DNA generated by the enzyme RNA-dependent DNA polymerase or reverse transcriptase using a messenger RNA as template. The reverse trascriptase produces a single-stranded cDNA which can be converted in the corresponding double-stranded cDNA by the DNA polymerase, thus cloned with the methods of recombinant DNA.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Convention signed in Rio de Janeiro June 5, 1992, pursues objectives such as the protection of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from it, globally, by promoting cooperation between countries.

Crossing-over. Mutual exchange of nucleotide sequences that occurs between homologous chromosomes during the meiosis. The crossing over is responsible for genetic recombination.

Cultivar. Cultivated varieties of plants of agrarian and horticultural interest characterized by a particular genotype artificially isolated for mass  or individual selection, whose characters are fixed and repeatable with gamic propagation for at least 3-4 generations.

Decision. A decision is binding to its recipients (e.g. an EU country or a single company) and it is directly applicable.

Decree. It is an ad interim measure having the force of law and adopted by the Government in extraordinary cases of necessity and urgency , under 'art. 77th of the Italian Republic Constitution. Since it is adopted by the government, this legislation lasts for only  60 days. If, within 60 days, the Parliament does not convert it into law, the decree decades.

Deliberate release. Directive 2001/18/EC definition for deliberate release "any intentional introduction into the environment of a GMO or combination of GMOs for which no specific containment measures are used to limit their contact with the general population and the environment and to ensure a high level of security for them "(Art. 2, Directive 2001/18/EC).

Directive. Legislation act that establishes a goal that all EU countries must achieve. In any case, each country can decide how to proceed on its own.
 
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). It is an organic molecule containing the hereditarily transmitted genetic information . The DNA is made up of two strands of deoxyribonucleotides, joined by hydrogen bonds between complementary faced base pairs (adenine with thymine, cytosine with guanine) and rolled in opposite directions (antiparallel) to one another forming a double helix. The DNA replication is of semiconservative type: each of the two daughter molecules  possesses a parental strand and  newly synthesized one. The DNA constitutes the genome of all organisms, except for some RNA viruses. (See also nitrogen bases and complementary).

DNA polymerase. It is an enzyme involved in the DNA replication by incorporation of deoxyribonucleotide triphosphates during cell replication, recombination and DNA repair. Both prokaryotes and eukaryotes possess different DNA polymerases deputy to different types of replicative events.

Enzyme. Enzymes are proteins (in most cases) that act as catalysts of biological reactions, or affect their speed. The enzymes are characterized by the presence of an active site, which binds with high specificity only substrates involved in the reaction catalyzed by them.

Gene flow (gene flow). Transfer of genetic material from one population to another, which can occur through the normal reproductive route (vertical gene transfer or VGT, Vertical Gene Transfer) or it can be independent of the normal sexual reproduction involving unrelated species (horizontal gene transfer, or HGT, Horizontal Gene Transfer).

Gene. It is a fundamental, physical and functional unit, of 'legacy that transmits information from one generation to another. A gene occupies a defined position and fixes (locus) a particular chromosome. From a biochemical point of view, a gene is a polynucleotide sequence of DNA that transcribes a messenger RNA and, through this, coding for a specific protein. A gene consists of a coding region and a sequence that makes transcription regulative. Structurally, the genes of prokaryotes are continuous, or are made up exclusively of a coding sequence; while eukariotic genes are discontinuous, ie contain coding sequences (exons) alternated with non-coding sequences (introns). The manifestation of the encoding character of the information contained in the genetic material (genotype) is the phenotype. . The genes can undergo chemical or structural changes, known as mutations, either spontaneously or as a result of chemical, physical or biological effects.

Genetic code. Coding system by which the genetic information contained in the DNA as nucleotide sequences is translated, via messenger RNA (mRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA), in the language of the amino acid proteins. Genetic code means the rules of correspondence between the possible "triplets" (sequences of three adjacent nucleotides) and the amino acid encoded signals or the start and end of the translation of the mRNA. Each triplet is called "codon": combining all four nucleotides by three, it is possible to obtain 64 (43) different codons encoding for the 20 amino acids. For this reason the genetic code is defined as "degenerated": an amino acid may be encoded by more than one triplet (for example, the alanine is coded by the codons GCA, GCC, GCG, GCU). For many of the triplets encoding the same amino acid, the first two bases are constant, while the latter may vary. The AUG triplet encodes for the amino acid methionine and also specifies the start site of translation of the mRNA into a polypeptide sequence. The codons UAA, UAG, UGA are called "codons terminators", because none of them exist corresponding codes for an amino acid and blocks protein sequence translation of an mRNA. The genetic code is universal as it is common to all organisms (with rare exceptions).

Genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology. Is the set of technologies that allow the manipulation of the genome of living organisms in order to obtain individuals with new phenotype. Among the various applications there are: the preparation of live and attenuated vaccines, the production of monoclonal antibodies, the insertion into the prokaryote genome of genes for the synthesis of useful substances such as antibiotics, hormones, etc..
 
Genetically modified organism (GMO). The Directive 2001/18/EC defines a GMO "an organism, with the exception of human beings, whose genetic material has been altered in such a way that it no longer generates in a natural way by multiplication or recombination". All organisms can be subject to genetic modification. The genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be micro-organisms (GMMs) plants (PGMs) animals (AGMs). GMO is used as synonymous of LMO.
 
Genome. All nucleic acid sequences that constitute the genetic heritage of a complete organism.

Glyphosate. It is a generic herbicide able to inhibit the enzyme EPSP synthase (3-fosfoshikimato 1-carbossiviniltransferasi) involved in the synthesis of aromatic amino acids in plants. The inhibition of the biosynthesis of amino acids causes the death of the plant that is no longer able to synthesize the monomers essential for the synthesis of proteins. The glyphosate tolerance has been induced in GM plants through the introduction of the bacterial enzyme EPSP synthase, which is not inhibited by the action of the herbicide, or through the introduction of another bacterial enzyme N-acetyl transferase capable of converting the toxic pesticide into the non-toxic N-acetyl glyphosate.

Herbicide. The herbicides are pesticides used for the control of weeds and can be classified according to their chemical nature or their target organisms. Some herbicides are selective for certain types of target plants, while others, such as glyphosate, have a generic action against all plant species. Herbicide resistance generics can be voluntarily induced in GM plants, such as corn, soybeans and glyphosate-tolerant GM oilseed rape.

Living modified organisms (LMOs). LMO has been defined by Article 3 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as "any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology."  In the Protocol, living organism means "any biological entity capable of transferring or replicating genetic material, including sterile organisms, viruses and viroides" and modern biotechnology means "the application of a) in vitro nucleic techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or b) fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection." LMO is used as synonymous of GMO.

Marketing. The provision of third parties, for a fee or free of charge "(Art. 2, Directive 2001/18/EC).

Mutation. Any permanent change in the nucleotide sequence of the DNA more or less able to exert an influence on the phenotype. Mutations can be classified by origin as spontaneous mutations (arise in the absence of mutagenic agents) or induced (due to chemical, physical or biological); by the site as germline mutations (affect the gametes can be passed through to the offspring) or somatic (affecting somatic cells and are not transmitted to the offspring); by functional effect on phenotype as lethal mutations (the body that is affected either dies before reaching reproductive age or once reached, does not reproduce) sub-lethal or deleterious, neutral (no known effect of damage or genetic advantage), advantageous. In diploid organisms mutations can be dominant or recessive, depending on whether the effect of the mutation is the manifestation of a dominant or recessive phenotype. Depending on the topology and extension, the mutations can be: gene mutations (e.g. point mutations, insertions and deletions intragenic), chromosomal (e.g. deletions, inversions, translocations) and genomic (e.g. monosomy, trisomy).

National Competent Authority (NCA). It is designated by each State Party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety,. It is responsible of performing the administrative functions of the Protocol and it is authorized to act on behalf of the Contracting Party (Article 19 of the Protocol).

Notification. It is a report by which notice is given. About GMOs, it is the transmission of information in accordance with local regulations to the competent authorities of the Member States, in order to obtain relative authorization.

Nucleotide. It is a biological molecule representing the basic unit of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). A nucleotide is composed of a nitrogenous base, a pentose sugar, and a phosphate group. The nucleotides that make up the DNA show the sugar deoxyribose as the pentose and their  nitrogenous bases are guanine, thymine, adenine and cytosine. The nucleotides involved in the RNA synthesis, instead, are constituted by ribose as pentose sugar and by  guanine,, adenine, cytosine and uracil in place of thymine as nitrogenous bases. To form a single strand of DNA or RNA, the nitrogenous base of a nucleotide binds itself to the next nucleotide sugar.

PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction, polymerase chain reaction). It is a molecular biology technique used to amplify, in a short time, specific traits of DNA, whose sequence is known at least in part.. It makes use of cycles of denaturation, annealing with the primers and extension resulting in more than 106 times amplification of the number of copies of the target DNA sequence
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Plasmid. It is an extrachromosomal genetic element, mostly present in bacterial cells, and capable of replicating independently from the host DNA. The majority of the plasmids is constituted by circular molecules of double helix DNA and often contains genes for antibiotic resistance. A plasmid is not physically linked to / to the chromosomes, and can thus be lost from the host cells. Several plasmids, natural or partially synthetic, are widely used in genetic engineering as a cloning vector.

Recombinant DNA. It is a DNA molecule produced by the combination of genetic material through the techniques of genetic engineering. The different polynucleotide sequences present within a recombinant DNA molecule generally derive from organisms of different species. The recombinant DNA techniques allow to obtain segments of DNA from the genome of a cell and insert them in other cells, which can replicate the segment millions of times during cell proliferation.

Recombinant. It is a molecule (or body) containing a combination of DNA sequences manipulated in vitro, and often derived from organisms.

Recombination. It is a process leading to the appearance of new allele combinations. It occurs during meiosis through the crossing-over and independent assortment processes.

Recommendation. It is a Non-binding act authorizing the European institutions to disclose their positions and suggest courses of action without imposing legal obligations on recipients.

Regulation. It is a binding legislative act, to be directly applied in its entirety throughout the European Union.
 
RNA (ribonucleic acid). Single-stranded nucleic acid (can form double strands) whose biochemical composition is similar to the DNA one, with the exceptions of ribose instead of deoxyribose and the nitrogenous base uracil instead of thymine. Depending on the function various types of RNA are distinguished: RNA heterogeneous nuclear (hnRNA), messenger RNA (mRNA), ribosomal RNA (rRNA), small nuclear RNA (snRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA). These forms of RNA are involved in the process of transcription of the information contained in the DNA and in its transport to the cytoplasm (mRNA), where they guide the biosynthesis of proteins encoded (mRNA, rRNA and tRNA). Moreover the RNA constitutes the genome of some viruses such as viruses with single-stranded RNA (eg. Picornavirus, retroviruses) or virus with double-stranded RNA (eg. reovirus).

Species. Taxonomic category including individuals belonging to one or more populations able to interbreed, really or virtually, giving in turn origin to a fertile lineage.

Transgene. It is a gene, synthesized in the laboratory or taken from any other organisms,  which is inserted into another organism. The expression of the transgenes can be regulated host organism promoters , or by promoters of different origin, viral for example.

Transgenic. It is an Organism whose genome has been modified by the introduction of one or more foreign genes with the technique of recombinant DNA, and that can transmit this change to its offspring. The new gene can be added or can replace the original gene in the receiving organism, or cancel the expression of a specific gene (gene knock-out). To obtain a transgenic animal the fertilized oocyte can be isolated from a female and the gene of interest cloned in a vector, usually retroviral, can be introduced inside the nucleus. Alternatively, the gene can be inserted in embryonic cells cultured, from which it will be possible to subsequently obtain an embryo. In both approaches, the zygote or embryo, in the case of mammals, is inserted into the uterus of another female, where development continues until the end of pregnancy. If the organism is capable of reproduction, the transferred gene can be passed on to the offspring that will show the new phenotype as well.

Unique Identifier. It is a code of a fixed length of 9 alphanumeric digits for a transformation event derived from recombinant DNA techniques.   It is composed of three elements separated by dashes:
2 or 3 alphanumerical digits to designate the applicant;
5 or 6 alphanumerical digits to designate the "transformation event";
1 numerical digit as a verification.

Weed. Plants growing naturally and vigorously at the expense of other plant species.