Teaching Gene Regulation Using Corn and Stickleback Fish

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This playlist can be used to teach the eukaryotic regulation of gene expression and its role in the development of plants and animals. The topics covered include transcription and regulation of gene expression. The activities include several opportunities for students to interpret and construct models and analyze data.  

By completing the resources in this playlist, students will be able to:

  • Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA in a regulatory region determines the expression of proteins that further affect the expression of other genes. 
  • Construct a model showing the regulation of eukaryotic gene expression.
  • Construct an explanation based on evidence for how mutations in regulatory regions of a gene affect the phenotype of an organism.

This playlist can be used in AP/IB Biology and undergraduate college courses. Implementing this playlist should take about six to seven 50-minute class periods.

Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn
Topic
Genetics
Anatomy & Physiology
Evolution
Resource Type
Videos

This film explores the evidence that corn was domesticated from a wild Mexican grass called teosinte. 

Use the film to introduce students to the concept of master regulatory genes, which sets the stage for exploring the topics in this playlist. 

Estimated Time: 18 minutes.

Activity for Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn
Topic
Genetics
Anatomy & Physiology
Evolution
Resource Type
Activities

This activity guides students through concepts covered in the film Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn (resource 1 in this playlist).

Have students complete the “Student Handout” to collect information about the evolution of corn from teosinte.

Estimated Time: One-and-a-half-50-minute class periods.

Stalking the Genetic Basis of a Trait
Topic
Genetics
Anatomy & Physiology
Evolution
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students analyze differences in the tb1 gene in corn and teosinte and make claims about the effects of those differences on the expression of genes and proteins, and on the phenotype of the plants.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have student groups complete questions 3–5 of part 1 in the “Student Handout” and address any misconceptions before they move on to part 2. Question 4 can be used as a pre-assessment. 
  • Assign different groups to work on each of the five research questions in part 2. Have groups share out and review the answers to each research question. 
  • Have all groups complete the “Synthesis” section to assess student understanding. 

Estimated Time: One-and-a-half-50-minute class periods.

Interactive Assessment for Evolving Switches, Evolving Bodies
Topic
Genetics
Evolution
Resource Type
Interactive Media

This film with embedded questions explores how mutations in gene regulatory regions have resulted in significant changes in the anatomy of freshwater populations of stickleback fish.

Show the film to the class. The film will pause automatically at several points to display a question.

  • Have students answer each question using a polling application of your choice. 
  • Discuss misconceptions as a class before continuing with the film.

Estimated Time: Half of a 50-minute class period.

DNA Transcription (Advanced Detail)
Topic
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Resource Type
Videos

This animation illustrates the process of DNA transcription. 

Remind students of the main function of transcription, then show the animation to the class. Pause the animation as needed to identify the molecules and describe their interactions.

Estimated Time: 10 minutes.

Regulation of Eukaryotic DNA Transcription
Topic
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Genetics
Resource Type
Videos

This animation shows how proteins interact to regulate the transcription of eukaryotic DNA into RNA.  

Remind students of the main function of regulation, then show the animation to the class. Pause the animation as needed to identify the molecules and describe their interactions.

Estimated Time: 10 minutes.

Modeling the Regulatory Switches of the Pitx1 Gene in Stickleback Fish
Topic
Genetics
Evolution
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students build models of eukaryotic gene transcription using the Pitx1 gene, which is involved in the development of pelvic spines in stickleback fish. 

Have students work in pairs or groups to complete this activity. Use question 1 as a post-assessment, comparing students’ answers to those for question 4 in the “Stalking the Genetic Basis of a Trait” activity (resource 3 in this playlist).

Estimated time: Two 50-minute class periods.