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.
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