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Difference Between Vector and Carrier

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Last updated date: 23rd Apr 2024
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What is Vector and Carrier?

To learn to differentiate between vector and carrier, it is first necessary to understand the terminologies. Here's a description of what vectors and carriers are and a few examples of the two.


Vector: Vectors usually refer to circular DNA molecules or some viral particles whose primary function is to carry a foreign gene or an exogene inside the host cell. There are several protocols followed in molecular biology to introduce a vector carrying the gene of interest into an organism. Once inside, the vector may allow the integration of the foreign gene into the host genome. After integration, the foreign gene becomes a part of the host genetic composition and will be replicated and propagated across generations. Sometimes the vectors remain extra chromosomally in the host cell and are maintained inside via selection pressure. These foreign genes express themselves inside the host and carry out the relevant functions. They are crucial for recombinant protein production, gene therapy, gene editing and other genetic engineering and biotechnology-based research works. 


Carrier: Carriers are organisms which carry pathogenic bacteria, parasites, protozoa and viruses and transmit these to the host cell, thereby spreading an infectious disease. In this process of harbouring and transmitting the infection, the carriers remain unaffected, that is, they do not exhibit any symptoms of the disease. They simply act as the vessel for the transmission of these pathogens, the pathogens do not replicate, propagate or complete any portion of their life cycle inside the body of the carrier. They impose a negative effect on human health by spreading infections.

Examples of Vector and Carriers

Some vector and carrier examples listed here are as follows. 

Plasmid molecules found extrachromosomally in bacteria and viral particles, are good examples of vectors. Insects, like house flies and mosquitoes, are good examples of carriers that cause many infectious diseases in humans. 


Difference Between Vector and Carrier

S.No

Category

Vector

Carrier


Definition

In molecular biology, vector refers to DNA molecules that carry foreign genes inside a host cell for replication and expression, integration and inheritance.

Carriers are organisms which harbour and transmit disease-causing pathogens to the host cell without themselves getting infected or showing any symptoms.  The pathogen usually does not carry out any portion of its life cycle in the carrier.


Function

Vectors are indispensable regarding genetic manipulation and gene transfer. It is an integral part of all molecular biology-based research like gene therapy and generation of transgenic organisms. They deliver a gene of interest to the host cell for their integration, expression of the gene product or recombinant protein production, thereby finding its extensive application in genetic engineering and biotechnology. 

Carriers act as reservoirs for several pathogens which lead to infectious diseases in individuals. However, they do not serve as vessels for the replication and multiplication of pathogens. They do not show any properties of expressing a foreign DNA and thus, do not take part in genetic manipulation and engineering.


Genetic Material

Vectors are DNA molecules or viruses that carry a foreign gene.

Carriers are living organisms that carry pathogenic microbes, parasites and viruses capable of causing infection.


Replication and Transmission

Vectors replicate within the host cell, amplify and propagate the foreign gene for their expression. They take part in both horizontal gene transmission where the genetic material is transferred between different organisms, and also in vertical gene transmission where the genetic material is passed down between generations.

Carriers are incapable of replicating and propagating the pathogen they carry. They simply transmit it to other organisms through mediums like body fluids (blood and saliva). 


Impact on Health

Vectors find their application in gene editing and genetic engineering. Thus, they often have a neutral or positive impact on human health as recent studies suggest the use of vector-based therapy in treating genetic disorders, previously known to be incurable. 

Carriers are often deleterious to human health as they transmit several pathogenic bacteria, parasites and viruses capable of causing infectious diseases. Often these diseases are debilitating and can cause death.


Summary

To summarise, this article distinguishes between vectors and carriers and explains the two terminologies and their characteristics. Vectors are usually DNA molecules that introduce foreign genes to a host cell and they find their application in genetic engineering and gene therapy. While carriers are organisms hosting pathogens capable of spreading infection from one individual to another and causing infectious diseases.

FAQs on Difference Between Vector and Carrier

1. What is the main difference between vector and carrier?

Vectors are DNA molecules that transfer foreign DNA into the host cell. It allows propagation and replication of the exogene inside the host. Vectors find their application in genetic engineering and biotechnology for gene therapy, editing and protein production purposes. Carriers are organisms that simply act as reservoirs for pathogenic infectious microbes and viruses and transmit these to the host cell. These microbes do not replicate or propagate inside the carrier. Once they enter the host body, they cause infectious diseases.

2. What are a few examples of vectors?

Here are a few examples of vectors that are used in biotechnology and molecular biology purposes.


  • Viral vectors - Here, viruses are engineered to carry foreign DNA.

  • Plasmids - Plasmids are extrachromosomal DNA found in bacteria that are usually open-circular. They often carry antibiotic-resistance genes.

  • Bacterial Artificial Chromosomes and Yeast Artificial Chromosomes (BACs and YACs) - These are large DNA molecules derived from bacteria and yeast, respectively. They are capable of carrying large DNA fragments.

  • Cosmids - These are DNA molecules that possess properties of both plasmids and phages. They are used for genomic or cDNA library construction.

3. What a few examples of carriers?

Here are a few examples of vectors that are used in biotechnology and molecular biology purposes.


  • Viral vectors - Here, viruses are engineered to carry foreign DNA.

  • Plasmids - Plasmids are extrachromosomal DNA found in bacteria that are usually open-circular. They often carry antibiotic-resistance genes.

  • Bacterial Artificial Chromosomes and Yeast Artificial Chromosomes (BACs and YACs) - These are large DNA molecules derived from bacteria and yeast, respectively. They are capable of carrying large DNA fragments.

  • Cosmids - These are DNA molecules that possess properties of both plasmids and phages. They are used for genomic or cDNA library construction.