Isolated from various bacteria, restriction enzymes serve as microscopic scalpels that cut DNA molecules at specific sites. The enzyme EcoRI, for example, cuts double-stranded DNA only where it finds the sequence GAATTC. The resulting fragments can then be separated by gel electrophoresis. The electrophoresis pattern itself can be of interest, since variations in the pattern from a given chromosomal region can sometimes be associated with variations in genetic traits, including susceptibilities to certain diseases. Knowledge of the cutting sites also yields a kind of physical map known as a restriction map.
Credit or Source: Office of Biological and Environmental Research of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. science.energy.gov/ber/
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, To Know Ourselves, 1996. (website)