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Auxotrophy is the inability of an organism to synthesize a particular organic compound required for its growth (as defined by IUPAC). An auxotroph is an organism that displays this characteristic; auxotrophic is the corresponding adjective. Auxotrophy is the opposite of prototrophy.

In genetics, a strain is said to be auxotrophic if it carries a mutation that renders it unable to synthesize an essential compound. For example a yeast mutant in which a gene of the uracil synthesis pathway is inactivated is a uracil auxotroph. Such a strain is unable to synthesize uracil and will only be able to grow if uracil can be taken up from the environment. This is the opposite of a uracil prototroph, or in this case a wild-type strain, which can still grow in the absence of uracil. Auxotrophic genetic markers are often used in molecular genetics.

Researchers have used strains of E. coli auxotrophic for specific amino acids to introduce non-natural amino acid analogues into proteins. For instance cells auxotrophic for the amino acid phenylalanine can be grown in media supplemented with an analogue such as para-azido phenylalanine.

It is important to remember that many living things, including humans, are auxotrophic for large classes of compounds required for growth and must obtain these compounds through diet (see vitamin, essential amino acid, essential fatty acid).

See also

hu:Auxotróf uk:Ауксотрофи