The 5 Stages of Failed Cloning Grief (and how to get back on track!)

Cloning is a fickle process that can make even the most seasoned bench scientists scream in frustration. By the time you perform a colony PCR and run the gel to check for your insert, you’ve invested several days in preparing these transformed cells. But then, the unthinkable happens. When you image your gel…the target band is missing.

This can trigger what’s known as “The 5 Stages of Failed Cloning Grief.” As you work through each stage at your own pace, just know that scientists all over the world feel your pain and can empathize with you in this difficult time. Continue reading

Characterizing Unique Protein: DNA Interactions Using Cell-Free Protein Expression

Molecular model of human telomere DNA

Molecular model of human telomere DNA

The POT1 protein plays a critical role in telomere protection and telomerase regulation. POT1 binds single-stranded 5′-TTAGGGTTAG-3′ and forms a dimer with the TPP1 protein. Human POT1 contains two Oligonucleotide/Oligosaccharide Binding (OB) fold domains, OB1 and OB2, which make physical contact with the DNA. OB1 recognizes 5′-TTAGGG whereas OB2 binds to the downstream TTAG-3′ (1,2). Several recent studies from other species have shown that some of these proteins are able to recognize a broader variety of DNA ligands than expected (3). A recent reference reexamined the sequence-specificity of the Human POT1 protein (4).
SELEX (Systematic Evolution of Ligands through Exponential Enrichment) was used  to re-examine the DNA-binding specificity of human POT1 (5). Continue reading

T-Vector Cloning: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Blue/White colony screening helps you pick only the colonies that have your insert.

Blue/White colony screening helps you pick only the colonies that have your insert.

Q: Can PCR products generated with GoTaq® DNA Polymerase be used to for T- vector cloning?

A: Yes. GoTaq® DNA Polymerase is a robust formulation of unmodified Taq Polymerase. GoTaq®DNA Polymerase lacks 3’ →5’ exonuclease activity (proof reading) and also displays non-template–dependent terminal transferase activity that adds a 3′ deoxyadenosine (dA) to product ends. As a result, PCR products amplified using GoTaq® DNA Polymerase will contain A-overhangs which makes it suitable for T-vector cloning.

We have successfully cloned PCR products generated using GoTaq® and GoTaq® Flexi DNA Polymerases into the pGEM®-T (Cat.# A3600), pGEM®-T Easy (Cat.# A1360) and pTARGET™ (Cat.# A1410) Vectors.

Q: Can GoTaq® Long PCR Master Mix be used for T-Vector Cloning?

A: Yes it can. GoTaq® Long PCR Master Mix utilizes recombinant Taq DNA polymerase as well as a small amount of a recombinant proofreading DNA polymerase. This 3´→5´ exonuclease activity (proof reading) enables amplification of long targets. Despite the presence of a small amount of 3´→5´ exonuclease activity, the GoTaq® Long PCR Master Mix generates PCR products that can be successfully ligated into the pGEM®-T Easy Vector System.

We have demonstrated that GoTaq® Long PCR Master Mix successfully generated DNA fragments that could be ligated into pGEM®-T Easy Vector System without an A-tailing procedure, and with ligation efficiencies similar to those observed with the GoTaq® Green Master Mix.

For details refer to Truman, A., Hook, B. and Wieczorek, D. Using GoTaq® Long PCR Master Mix for T-Vector Cloning.

Tip: For cloning blunt-ended PCR fragments into T-vectors, use the A-tailing protocol discussed in the pGEM®-T and pGEM®-T Easy Technical Manual #TM042.

Q: How do I prepare PCR products for ligation? What products can be used to purify the DNA? Continue reading

PCR Cloning: Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions

eh1Q: What is the easiest way to clone PCR Products?

A: The simplest way to clone PCR Products is to amplify the product using thermostable polymerases such as Taq, Tfl or Tth polymerase. These polymerases add a single deoxyadenosine to the 3´-end of the amplified products (3´-end overhang), and can be cloned directly into a linearized T-vector.

Q: What if my DNA polymerase has 3´ to 5´ exonuclease activity (i.e., proofreading activity) that removes the 3´-end overhang?

A: To clone PCR products that have been amplified with a polymerase that have proof reading activity into a T-vector, you will need to perform an A-tailing step using Taq DNA polymerase and dATP. Blunt ended restriction digest fragments can also be A-tailed using this method. The method below uses GoTaq Flexi DNA Polymerase (comes with a Mg-free reaction buffer), but any Taq DNA polymerase can be used.

Set up the following reaction in a thin-walled PCR tube:

1–4µl purified blunt-ended DNA fragment (from PCR or restriction enzyme digestion)
2µl of 5X GoTaq Reaction Buffer (Colorless or Green)
2µl of 1mM dATP (0.2mM final concentration)
1µl GoTaq Flexi DNA Polymerase (5u/µl)
0.6µl of 25mM MgCl2 (1.5mM final concentration)
Nuclease-free water to a final volume of 10µl

Incubate at 70°C for 15–30 minutes in a water bath or thermal cycler.

Q: What is a T-vector, and why are they used for cloning PCR products?

A: T vectors are linearized plasmids that have been treated to add T overhangs to match the A overhangs of the PCR product. PCR fragments that contain an A overhang can be directly ligated to these T-tailed plasmid vectors with no need for further enzymatic treatment other than the action of T4 DNA ligase.

For a complete PCR Cloning protocol, Visit the Cloning Chapter of the Promega Protocols and Applications Guide.

Successful Ligation and Cloning of Your Insert

Ligation and cloningYou have PCR amplified your insert of interest, made sure the PCR product is A tailed and are ready to clone into a T vector (e.g., pGEM®-T Easy Vector). The next step is as simple as mixing a few microliters of your purified product with the cloning vector in the presence of DNA ligase, buffer and ATP, right? In fact, you may need to consider the molar ratio of T vector to insert.

After the insert DNA is prepared for ligation, estimate the concentration by comparing the staining intensity of your PCR product with that of DNA molecular weight standard of similar size and known concentrations on an ethidium bromide-stained agarose gel. If the vector DNA concentration is unknown, estimate the vector concentration by the same method. Test various vector:insert DNA ratios to determine the optimal ratio for a particular vector and insert. In most cases, a 1:1 or 1:3 molar ratio of vector:insert works well, but you may want to consider 1:5, 5:1 and even a 10:1 ratio. The following example illustrates the calculation of the amount of insert required at a specific molar ratio of vector:insert.

[(ng of vector × kb size of insert) ÷ kb size of vector] × (molar amount of insert ÷ molar amount of vector) = ng of insert

Example:
How much 500bp insert DNA needs to be added to 100ng of 3.0kb vector in a ligation reaction for a desired vector:insert ratio of 1:3?
[(100ng vector × 0.5kb insert) ÷ 3.0kb vector] × (3 ÷ 1) = 50ng insert

Our BioMath Calculator is an easy way to calculate the molar ratio of vector to insert for ligation.

The vector:insert ratio changes, depending on the insert, even if you use the same vector. If you use the same vector:insert ratio for many different inserts and the insert size increases or decreases, recalculate the amount of insert needed for ligation using the equation above or our handy BioMath Calculator to ensure the molar ratio stays the same.

For more information on cloning, consult the Cloning chapter of the Protocols and Applications Guide.

Troubleshooting T-Vector Cloning

Why do few of my pGEM®-T or pGEM®-T Easy Vector clones contain the PCR product of interest?

There are several possible reasons why the PCR product may not be recovered after ligation, bacterial transformation and plating when using the pGEM®-T or pGEM®-T Easy Vector Systems.

The PCR fragment may not be A-tailed. Without the A overhangs, the PCR product cannot be ligated into a T vector. Use a nonproofreading DNA polymerase like GoTaq® DNA Polymerase for PCR. If a proofreading DNA polymerase is used, A overhangs will need to be added. Purify the PCR fragment, and set up an A-tailing reaction (see the pGEM®-T and pGEM®-T Easy Vector Systems Technical Manual #TM042). The A-tailed product can be added directly to the ligation as described in the pGEM®-T or pGEM®-T Easy Vector protocol.

The insert:vector ratio may not be optimal. The ideal ratio for each insert to a vector can vary. For example, the Control Insert DNA works well at a 1:1 ratio, but another insert may be ligated more efficiently at a 3:1 ratio. Check the integrity and quantity of your PCR fragment by gel analysis. Optimize the insert:vector ratio (see Technical Manual #TM042).

Multiple PCR products were amplified and cloned into the pGEM®-T or pGEM®-T Easy Vector. Other amplification products including primer dimers will compete for ligation into the T vector, decreasing the possibility that the desired insert will be cloned. To minimize other competing products, gel purify the PCR fragment of interest.

Promega Technical Services Scientists are here to assist you in troubleshooting your experiments at any time. Contact Technical Services.