MadSci Network: Molecular Biology

Re: How does detergent and meat tenderizer help DNA become visible + extracted?

Date: Wed Feb 28 15:56:16 2001
Posted By: Chris Larson, Research Scientist
Area of science: Molecular Biology
ID: 983231431.Mb

Hi Michael,

This was a great question because it caused me to learn that there are 
chemical meat tenderizers (I thought everyone just pounded on their steaks 
like I do)!  Chemical meat tenderizers are enzymes that cut proteins up 
into smaller pieces. Detergent has chemicals in it that cause proteins to 
stop binding to whatever it is they are usually binding to (generally your 
hands or clothes or dishes, but as you will see it can be other things). 
Normally DNA is wrapped around and packaged within clusters of proteins 
balls (picture a string wrapped around and around a series of baseballs in 
a row). The enzymes in the meat tenderizer essentially chop up the 
baseball-like proteins that the DNA is wrapped around, and then the 
chemicals in the detergent cause the DNA to stop sticking to the leftover 
pieces of the baseball/protein. That frees up the DNA/string to float 
around by itself in solution and bind to whatever dye it is that you are 
using to try to see it, and thus you do see it. If you didn't use the meat 
tenderizer, the baseball-like proteins would remain intact, and the 
detergent wouldn't be able to wash the DNA off. If you didn't use the 
detergent, the DNA would just stick to the pieces of the baseball-like 
proteins. But if you use both, the detergent is strong enough to wash the 
DNA off the pieces of the protein (just not the whole protein; if you want 
to know why you can write to me directly, but basically it has to do more 
complicated things like surface area and entropy).

Good luck!


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