Conditional Mutation

The Conditional Mutation, Its Specific Traits and Its Most Significant Uses

In genetics, mutations can change many of the factors of an experiment, and the conditional mutation is a type of unique mutation that always has to be taken into account. This is a type of mutation that depends on certain conditions, and can easily lead to the alteration of the cell or even to mass cell death. This volatile property is what makes conditional mutations so interesting. Some researchers have found ways to exploit this fact, and are actively using conditional mutations in the lab, to induce and study certain genetic changes and their consequences.

How Do Conditional Mutations Really Work?

A conditional mutation works by changing its result based on the severity of a certain factor or environmental trait. Some mutations remain benign and harmless until the factor in question reaches a certain value. Once it passes that value, the phenotype changes from a “wild-type” or normal phenotype to a mutant phenotype that responds severely to restrictive environmental conditions. This, in turn, might cause a number of results, each leading to impaired function or cellular death. Light, temperature or the presence of certain chemicals can actively induce a conditional mutation. In many cases, this happens naturally, however, some scientists were also able to accurately mimic nature and create controlled conditional mutations in the lab.

Specific Examples of Conditional Mutations

There are many examples of conditional mutations and the diseases that they can cause. These mutations can sometimes result in defective functions that render the organism incapable of surviving under specific conditions. One of the best example is the temperature-dependent or temperature-sensitive mutation. These mutations cause the organism to be at risk of cell death when the temperature rises above or diminishes below a certain level. In such cases, the restrictive temperature condition leads to severe dysfunction. On the other hand, permissive conditions under normal temperatures will more likely lead to the mutation displaying a wild-type phenotype which only causes mild effects.

The Importance of These Mutations

A conditional mutation is sometimes needed when the regular means of research fail. If, for example, we try to use a transgenic mouse model to study the overexpression of a gene, that model will present the same expression all the time. However, if we want to save time by comparing proteins that have the gene expressed in specific tissues at specific times, then the classical model for transgenes no longer stands. In such cases, conditional mutations provide us with an “on/off switch” that allows for the gene to be expressed only under certain conditions. These conditions can, of course, be controlled so that a viable experiment can be set up at short notice.

The Research Applications of the Mutation

A transcriptional switch of the kind we have just described can be used, for example, to alter the expression of a gene based on whether or not a steroid ligand is present. Alternatively, it can also be possible to study the effect of IL4 in an asthma transgenic mouse model by turning IL4 on and off with the help of conditional mutations. There are many other possible applications, and with the help of techniques such as CRISPR/Cas4, implementing them is easier than ever. As a result, researchers can use a wide array of conditional mutation changes to study gene expression far more dynamically than ever before.