Glossary

Allele

One of potentially many different DNA sequences of a gene, the combination of which determines the phenotype. Different alleles are usually formed through polymorphisms.

Binding kinetics

Measuring concentrations of receptor and ligand molecules to help characterise a chemical reaction's mechanism.

Bioassay

To measure the effects of a substance, such as a plant compound, on living organisms.

Bioavailability

The quantity of a substance that is absorbed from the gut into the blood stream.

Bioinformatics

Use of statistics, computer science and molecular biology to understand biological processes. Includes mapping and analysing DNA and protein sequences, aligning the sequences and comparing them.

Biological controls

Method of controlling pests using natural mechanisms. May include introduction or supplementation of natural enemies, parasites or micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi.

Biomaterials

Natural or man-made materials that form all or part of a living structure or are intended to interact with biological systems. Uses include medical applications, fine filtering, bioremediation, packaging and food applications

Biopreservation

Extended storage life and enhanced safety of foods using natural microflora and/or their antibacterial products.

Biotechnology

Use of living things and biological mechanisms in useful applications.

cDNA

Complementary DNA sequence formed based on mRNA sequence (ie no introns)

Cell-based screening

Use of robotics, data processing and control software to identify active compounds, antibodies or genes in cells involved in a specific biomolecular pathway.

Chemosensory proteins

A class of small soluble proteins secreted into the lymph of an insect's chemical-detecting organ.

Chromatography

Separating the components of a mixture either for further use of one or more, or to identify the relative proportions.

Containment

Protocols and facilities for preventing the escape of new organisms into the wider environment. Approved in New Zealand by ERMA, monitored by MAF.

Cultivar

Variety of plant selected and cultivated for specific characteristics.

DNA

Sequence of nucleotides which confer genes, the blueprint of life. DNA is arranged as a double helix in cells as individual parcels called chromosomes.

Ecosystem

Combined physical and biological components of a defined environment.

Ecoverification

Quantification of environmental impact of a product or verification that a product or process has met specified environmental criteria.

Electrospinning

Use of a high voltage electrical potential to form a mat of fine fibres from polymer substances. The very fine fibre has properties like the original material and can be moulded, woven, sprayed or compressed for desired applications.

ELISA

Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays are used to detect the presence of antibodies or antigens in a sample.

Emulsions

A mixture, often opaque, where two or more unblendable liquids are combined by the dispersal of one or more liquids within another. For example salad dressing and milk.

Enzymology

Identifying enzymes and the chemical reactions they enhance.

EST

Expressed Sequence Tag part sequence of transcribed DNA

Ethylene

A common organic compound, C2H4,

Fluorescent microscopy

Use of an optical microscope to study substances labelled with a molecule that will glow or be easily seen.

Functional food

Food product with defined added health benefits above basic nutrition

Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS)

Used to identify different substances, including trace elements, in a test sample.

Gene marker

An area of DNA with a polymorphism that confers different characteristics. Used to identify individuals holding a specific trait.

Genome

The entirety of an organism's genetic information, including both the genes and the non-coding sequences of DNA (or RNA for viruses)

Genomics

Study of genes and gene regulation

Germplasm

Collection of genetically different organisms of the same genus.

Glucosinolates

Long-lasting antioxidants in some plants that may enhance good health and wellbeing in humans by triggering enzymes that help eliminate free radicals, or toxins, to enhance the body's own antioxidant defence systems.

Glycosylation

The enzymatic process that links saccharides to produce glycans.

Heterozygous

Organism with different alleles at loci of a specified gene

Homozygous

Same allele at all loci of a specific gene (eg diploids will have 2 copies, one at the same site on each set of chromosomes)

Hybridisation

Combining different varieties, species (interspecific) or genera (intergeneric) of organisms to create a hybrid.

Immunity

Having sufficient biological defences to avoid infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion.

Immunoassays

A biochemical test measuring the presence, or concentration of a substance, in solutions that frequently contain a complex mixture of substances.

Immunomolecular biology

Using antibody mimics to study the role of bioactive molecules in plant processes.

Inflammation

A complex response of vascular tissues to protect an organism from harmful stimuli such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants.

Ligands

Substances that bind on proteins of biomolecules to serve a purpose. They include substrates, inhibitors, activators and neurotransmitters.

Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LCMS)

Used to identify specific and potential chemicals in a complex mixture.

Macro nutrients

Classes of chemical compounds humans eat in the largest quantities; carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

Marker assisted selection

Using a marker, either genetic, morphological or biochemical, to select breeding parents or offspring for traits of interest.

Metabolites

Products of the physical and chemical changes that take place in the body.

Metabolomics

Study of the compounds in cells released or expressed at different metabolic states

Micro nutrients

Dietary minerals needed by the human body in very small quantities, less than 100 mg/day.

Microarray

Simultaneous measurements of large amounts of material using high-throughput screening. Can be used for DNA, protein, tissue, cells, chemicals, antibodies and carbohydrates.

Microbiology

The study of life and organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Includes the study of fungi, parasites, bacteria and viruses.

mRNA

Messenger RNA sequence encoding a protein

Nano filtration

A membrane filtration process with a pore size of typically about 1 nanometre.

Nanotechnology

Control and use of atoms and molecules in useful applications.

Neural signal

The electrical of chemical signal that transmits information transmitted between nerve cells.

Neuroscience

The study of the nervous system.

Nucleotide

Building block of DNA and RNA. For DNA the nucleotides are ATCG, for RNA AUCG.

Nutraceutical

Compounds, usually naturally occurring, with a known beneficial effect.

Olfaction

The sense of smell. In vertebrates olfactory cells are in the nose and invertebrate they are on the antennae. Many vertebrates have two olfactory systems, one for detecting chemicals vapours and the other for fluid smells.

Oligonucleotide

Sequence of nucleotides.

Oxidative stress

Impact on body from natural oxidative processes in cells producing free radicals and oxidant poisons as waste products.

Pathogen

Biological agent causing disease in a host organism.

Pharmacology

Study of the interaction between a living organism and the chemicals that make up a drug.

Pheromone

Chemical compound released by an organism that causes a response in members of the same species.

Phylogenetic

Evolutionary relatedness of organisms based on molecular and morphological characteristics.

Phytochemical

Chemical compound that naturally occurs in plants.

Plant transformation

Introduction of genetic material to a plant. May be from same species (cisgenic) or another species (transgenic).

Plant Variety Rights

Rights granted to breeder of a new variety of plant giving exclusive control of that variety.

Ploidy

Number of complete sets of chromosomes in each cell. Most organisms are diploid (two sets) with haploid (one set) gametes. Tiploids are usually sterile as the chromosomes cannot pair up during meiosis to form gametes. Tetraploids (four) tend to be fertile.

Polymorphism

Change in DNA that leads to different characteristics. May be a single nucleotide change (SNP) or a duplication, insertion or deletion of longer sequences.

Postharvest

Stage of crop production following harvest, from field to consumer.

Pre-mRNA

RNA sequence found in higher organisms (eukaryotes) prior to processing to mRNA, including exons (protein coding regions) and introns (non-coding regions).

Proteomics

Study of proteins expressed in cells

QTL (Qualitative Trait Loci)

Characteristic controlled by multiple genes with different individual or cumulative effects on expression.

Quantitative PCR

Real time polymerase chain reaction is a molecular biology technique that detects and measures one or more specific sequences of DNA.

Respirometry

Measuring the metabolic rate of animals by finding rates of carbon dioxide production and oxygen consumption.

Satiety

Being pleasantly satisfied or full of food.

Semiochemical

Chemical compound released by organisms that carries a message to other organisms, whether same or other species.

SNP

Single nucleotide polymorphism. In some cases causes change in characteristics in an organism.

Spectroscopy

Using wavelength or frequency to measure a substance.

Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis

Used to measure separate proteins, or other molecules, to better understand their function.

X-ray crystallography

Used to find the arrangement of atoms within a crystal.

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