Biotechnology Dictionary

If you are in the business of biotech, the alphabet soup of similar-sounding or re-purposed terms can be quite confusing. Principle Point offers our biotech and medical dictionary of more than 1,000 terms, which will be updated periodically as needed. Please let us know if you think we should add a term or if an existing definition needs clarification.


Antibiotics include natural and synthetic chemicals that selectively kill or slow the growth of microorganisms. (See Antibiotic resistance, Bacteriocide, Bacteriostat.)

Antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is when a microorganism is able to withstand antibiotic treatment due to the cell's unique genetic characteristics such as proteins that degrade, deactivate or prevent transport of the antibiotic.


An antibody is an immunoglobulin protein that specifically binds to an antigen. (See monoclonal antibodies, polyclonal antibodies.)


An anticodon is a segment of three nucleotide bases in transfer RNA that allows pairing with a complementary or codon in a strand of messenger RNA during protein synthesis (or, 'translation'). See Codon, Messenger RNA, RNA, translation.


An antigen is a foreign substance that is recognized by an immune cell, triggering an immune response and the production of antibodies.

Antigenic determinant

Antigenic determinants are cellular surface features, such as glycoproteins, that are recognized as foreign by an immune cell or antibody.

Antigenic switching

Antigenic switching describes the process where a microorganism's surface antigens are changed through genetic rearrangement, allowing the pathogen to evade immune detection.

Antimicrobial agent

Antimicrobial agent describes any chemical or biological compound that slows or prohibits growth of microorganisms.

Antisense RNA

Antisense RNA blocks translation of a target (sense) mRNA molecule by complementarily binding to it and preventing tRNA interaction.

Asexual reproduction

Asexual reproduction describes a nonsexual means of reproduction which can include grafting and budding.


Autosomes are chromosomes not involved in sex determination.


Bacillus is a rod-shaped bacterium.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that kills insects.  This organism is used in the microbial pesticide industry.


Backcross describes breeding of an organism with one of its parent organisms.


Bacteriocides are a class of antibiotics that kills bacterial cells.

Bacteriophage (phage or phage particle)

Bacteriophage is a virus that specifically infects bacteria, a mechanism used in molecular biology as a vector for cloning DNA.


Bacteriostats are a class of antibiotics preventing bacterial cell growth.


A bacterium is a prokaryotic organism, which are all characterized as single-cell organisms without a nucleus.

Base pair (bp)

A base pair is a complementary hydrogen-bonded coupling of nucleobases in a DNA or RNA strand, such as Adenine-Thymine or Guanine-Cytosine. It is also the unit of measurement for DNA length.


beta-DNA describes the normal biological form of DNA, characterized as a right-handed helix.


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