Medical Definition of Nucleic acid hybridization

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Nucleic acid hybridization: A technique in which single-stranded nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) are allowed to interact so that complexes called hybrids are formed by molecules with similar, complementary sequences.

Through nucleic acid hybridization, the degree of sequence identity between nucleic acids can be determined and specific sequences detected in them. The hybridization can be carried out in solution or with one component immobilized on a gel or, most commonly, on nitrocellulose paper.

Hybrids are detected by various means: visualization in the electron microscope; by radioactively labelling one component and removing non-complexed DNA; or by washing or digestion with an enzyme that attacks single-stranded nucleic acids and finally estimating the radioactivity bound.

Hybridizations are done in all combinations: DNA-DNA (DNA can be rendered single-stranded by heat denaturation), DNA-RNA or RNA-RNA.

In situ hybridization involves hybridizing a labelled nucleic acid (often labelled with a fluorescent dye) to suitably prepared cells or histological sections. This is used particularly to look for specific transcription or localization of genes to specific chromosomes via fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/25/2017

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