Gene Polymorphism Studies in a Teaching Laboratory

Research paper by Jeffry Shultz

Indexed on: 22 Oct '08Published on: 22 Oct '08Published in: Journal of Science Education and Technology


I present a laboratory procedure for illustrating transcription, post-transcriptional modification, gene conservation, and comparative genetics for use in undergraduate biology education. Students are individually assigned genes in a targeted biochemical pathway, for which they design and test polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers. In this example, students used genes annotated for the steroid biosynthesis pathway in soybean. The authoritative Kyoto encyclopedia of genes and genomes (KEGG) interactive database and other online resources were used to design primers based first on soybean expressed sequence tags (ESTs), then on ESTs from an alternate organism if soybean sequence was unavailable. Students designed a total of 50 gene-based primer pairs (37 soybean, 13 alternative) and tested these for polymorphism state and similarity between two soybean and two pea lines. Student assessment was based on acquisition of laboratory skills and successful project completion. This simple procedure illustrates conservation of genes and is not limited to soybean or pea. Cost per student estimates are included, along with a detailed protocol and flow diagram of the procedure.