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Classroom Activities to Engage Students and Promote Critical Thinking about Genetic Regulation of Bacterial Quorum Sensing

    Authors: Kimberly Aebli1, Elizabeth Hutchison1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: SUNY Geneseo Biology Department, State University of New York (SUNY), Geneseo, NY 14454
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 04 May 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: 1 College Circle, Geneseo, NY 14454. Phone: 585-245-5038. E-mail: hutchison@geneseo.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2016 vol. 17 no. 2 284-285. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i2.985
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    Abstract:

    We developed an interactive activity to mimic bacterial quorum sensing, and a classroom worksheet to promote critical thinking about genetic regulation of the lux operon. The interactive quorum sensing activity engages students and provides a direct visualization of how population density functions to influence light production in bacteria. The worksheet activity consists of practice problems that require students to apply basic knowledge of the lux operon in order to make predictions about genetic complementation experiments, and students must evaluate how genetic mutations in the lux operon affect gene expression and overall phenotype. The worksheet promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills, and emphasizes the roles of diffusible signaling molecules, regulatory proteins, and structural proteins in quorum sensing.

Key Concept Ranking

Quorum Sensing
0.8873528
Bacterial Genetics
0.71644425
Vibrio fischeri
0.5725455
lux Operon
0.54931366
Gene Expression
0.5252521
Signal Molecules
0.48010325
0.8873528

References & Citations

1. Freeman S, et al2014Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematicsProc Natl Acad Sci U S A1118410841510.1073/pnas.1319030111248217564060654 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111
2. Merkel S2012The development of curricular guidelines for introductory microbiology that focus on understandingJ Microbiol Biol Educ13323810.1128/jmbe.v13i1.363236537793577306 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v13i1.363
3. Miyashiro T, Ruby EG2012Shedding light on bioluminescence regulation in Vibrio fischeriMol Microbiol8479580610.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08065.x225009433359415 http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08065.x
4. Ng WL, Bassler BL2009Bacterial quorum-sensing network architecturesAnnu Rev Genet4319722210.1146/annurev-genet-102108-134304196860784313539 http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-genet-102108-134304
5. Prince M2004Does active learning work? A review of the researchJ Eng Educ9322323110.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x
6. Schauder S, Bassler BL2001The languages of bacteriaGenes Dev151468148010.1101/gad.89960111410527 http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gad.899601
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i2.985
2016-05-04
2017-05-29

Abstract:

We developed an interactive activity to mimic bacterial quorum sensing, and a classroom worksheet to promote critical thinking about genetic regulation of the lux operon. The interactive quorum sensing activity engages students and provides a direct visualization of how population density functions to influence light production in bacteria. The worksheet activity consists of practice problems that require students to apply basic knowledge of the lux operon in order to make predictions about genetic complementation experiments, and students must evaluate how genetic mutations in the lux operon affect gene expression and overall phenotype. The worksheet promotes critical thinking and problem solving skills, and emphasizes the roles of diffusible signaling molecules, regulatory proteins, and structural proteins in quorum sensing.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Diagram of the operon and its regulation. Direction of transcription is indicated by arrowheads, and the promoter region is indicated by the lighter green color. encodes an acyl-homoserine lactone (AHL) synthase, which converts S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) into AHLs (blue circles). These AHLs can diffuse out of the cell, and AHLs from the surrounding environment can diffuse inward. AHLs bind to and activate luxR, which upregulates operon transcription.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2016 vol. 17 no. 2 284-285. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i2.985
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