We present a PCR-based laboratory exercise that can be used with first- or second-year biology students to help overcome common misconceptions about gene expression. Biology students typically do not have a clear understanding of the difference between genes (DNA) and gene expression (mRNA/protein) and often believe that genes exist in an organism or cell only when they are expressed. This laboratory exercise allows students to carry out a PCR-based experiment designed to challenge their misunderstanding of the difference between genes and gene expression. Students first transform E. coli with an inducible GFP gene containing plasmid and observe induced and un-induced colonies. The following exercise creates cognitive dissonance when actual PCR results contradict their initial (incorrect) predictions of the presence of the GFP gene in transformed cells. Field testing of this laboratory exercise resulted in learning gains on both knowledge and application questions on concepts related to genes and gene expression.
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Department, Program, or Center
Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)
Wright LK, Newman DL (2013). Using PCR to target misconceptions about gene expression. J Microbiol Biol Educ.14(1):93-100. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.539
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