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Electrophoresis: How scientists observe fragments of DNA

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Describes gel electrophoresis and how the method is used in molecular genetic analysis.

Electrophoresis Overview and Objectives

Don Lee
Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA
Patricia Hain
Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA


This lesson describes gel electrophoresis and how the method is used in molecular genetic analysis. At the completion of this lesson, a learner should be able to:

1.) Define the terms “electrophoresis gel”, “electrophoresis buffer“, “ethidium bromide”, “fragment banding pattern”, “agarose” and “acrylamide”

2.) List the steps in the electrophoresis method and their proper order.

3.) Describe the basic principles and techniques involved in the use of electrophoresis to detect specific molecules and why the technique requires the geneticist to obtain or generate many copies of the molecules being detected.

4.) Contrast the electrophoresis methods used to detect DNA, RNA and proteins.

5.) Predict how DNA analysis techniques including electrophoresis procedures would need to be changed in order to visualize specific differences between DNA samples.

6.) Determine the genotype implied at a genetic locus by the pattern of banding observed in an electrophoresis gel.

7.) Predict the electrophoresis banding pattern observed in DNA samples based on the DNA segment differences in those DNA samples.

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