Difference between Selectable Marker and Reporter Gene

Genetic engineering is a budding phenomenon in biotechnology. It primarily involves the transformation of cells with desired genes to gain better traits and quality in the offspring. Selectable markers and reporter genes are two such sequences that aid in the process of transformation. Let us discuss the two genes before differentiating between them.

What is a Selectable Marker?

Selectable markers are gene sequences that are introduced into plasmids for differentiation between transformed and non-transformed cells.

For example, a plasmid has a neomycin resistant gene as the selectable marker. When the cell is transformed, the selectable marker will be incorporated into the cell’s genome. Now when these cells are grown on a media containing neomycin antibiotic, only those cells that have been transformed will be able to grow, and the non-transformed cells will not.

What is a Reporter Gene?

A reporter gene is a test gene whose expression can be quantified. It is found in the T-DNA of plasmids that are incorporated into a cell’s genome. When a cell has been transformed, it is necessary to assess the expression of those genes.

Reporter genes are those sequences that can be assessed to determine the expression of transformed genes. A reporter gene assay is carried out by calculating the total amount of protein formed. They are usually fluorescent in nature and give visual cues for final estimation. E.g., luciferase, octopine synthase, green fluorescent proteins, etc.

Selectable Marker vs Reporter Gene

Selectable Marker

Reporter Gene


Selectable markers are sequences that can be used to distinguish between transformed and non-transformed genes.

Reporter genes are test sequences whose expression can be quantified.


They act as markers for transformed genes by providing resistance against toxic substances.

The amount of protein a reporter gene produces can be quantified to assess the transformation of a gene.


Antibiotic resistance genes, herbicide resistance genes and antimetabolite marker genes.

Green fluorescent protein, luciferase, octopine synthase.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the selectable marker very essential?

Selectable markers are essential because they provide easy detection of transformed cells from the non-transformed ones.

What is a screening marker?

Screening markers are test markers that are used in the detection of diseases such as cancer at an early asymptomatic stage.

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