Improving micro-organisms

Scientists may wish to change the DNA of wild strains of micro-organisms so that they produce useful substances, or produce useful substances more efficiently.

New mutations are an important source of variation within populations of micro-organisms. For example, wild strains of micro-organisms can be changed and improved by the use of mutagenic agents.

The process of changing a micro-organism’s genetic material using mutagenic agents is called mutagenesis.

There are two main types of mutagenic agents:

  • Radiation - eg UV light, X-rays and gamma rays
  • Chemical - eg mustard gas and lead oxide