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Who Scared the Cat? A Molecular Crime Scene Investigation Laboratory Exercise

    Authors: Laura E. Ott1,*, Susan D. Carson2
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    Affiliations: 1: College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250; 2: Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and Division of Academic and Student Affairs, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 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/ and 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: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250. Phone: 410-455-8089. Fax: 410-455-5831. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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    Abstract:

    This introductory laboratory exercise gives first-year life science majors or nonmajors an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in basic bioinformatics and molecular biology laboratory techniques and analysis in the context of a mock crime scene investigation. In this laboratory, students determine if a human (Lady) or dog (Kona) committed the fictional crime of scaring a cat. Students begin by performing PCR using provided dog- and human-specific PCR primers to determine the sequences to be amplified and predict PCR amplicon sizes. They then BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) the PCR results to confirm that the PCR primers are designed to amplify genomic fragments of the cardiac actin gene in both dogs and humans. Finally, they use DNA quantification techniques, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis to identify the culprit and they confirm results by analyzing Sanger sequencing. Student learning gains were demonstrated by successful execution of the lab and by analysis and interpretation of data in the completion of laboratory reports. The student learning gains were also demonstrated by increased performance on a post-laboratory assessment compared to the pre-assessment. A post-activity assessment also revealed that students perceived gains in the skills and conceptual knowledge associated with the student learning outcomes. Finally, assessment of this introductory molecular biology and bio-informatics activity reveals that it allows first-year students to develop higher-order data analysis and interpretation skills.

Key Concept Ranking

Agarose Gel Electrophoresis
0.6020601
Bioinformatics Techniques
0.45824465
Molecular Techniques
0.43515992
0.6020601

References & Citations

1. Altschul SF, Gish W, Miller W, Myers EW, Lipman DJ 1990 Basic local alignment search tool J Mol Biol 215 403 410 10.1016/S0022-2836(05)80360-2 2231712 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0022-2836(05)80360-2
2. American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011 Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to action American Association for the Advancement of Science Washington, DC
3. Arwood L 2004 Teaching cell biology to nonscience majors through forensics, or how to design a killer course Cell Biol Educ 3 131 138 10.1187/cbe.03-12-0023 15257341 437644 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.03-12-0023
4. Chiou S-H, Chow K-C, Yang C-H, Chiang S-F, Lin C-H 2005 Discovery of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded RNA signal and EBV nuclear antigen leader protein DNA sequence in pet dogs J Gen Virol 86 899 905 10.1099/vir.0.80792-0 15784884 http://dx.doi.org/10.1099/vir.0.80792-0
5. Dinsdale E, et al 2015 NIBLSE: A network for integrating bioinformatics into life sciences education CBE Life Sci Educ 14 le3 26466989 4710410
6. Emmert EAB 2013 Biosafety guidelines for handling microorganisms in the teaching laboratory: development and rationale J Microbiol Biol Educ 14 1 78 83 10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.531 23858356 3706168 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.531
7. Fuselier L, Bougary A, Malott M 2011 From trace evidence to bioinformatics: putting bryophytes into molecular biology education Biochem Mol Biol Educ 39 38 46 10.1002/bmb.20458 21433251 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.20458
8. Kent WJ, et al 2002 The human genome browser at UCSC Genome Res 12 996 1006 10.1101/gr.229102 Article published online before print in May 2002 12045153 186604 http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/gr.229102
9. Li J, et al 2013 A myristoylated alanine-rich C kinase substrate–related peptide suppresses cytokine mRNA and protein expression in LPS-activated canine neutrophils Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol 48 3 314 321 10.1165/rcmb.2012-0278OC 3604091 http://dx.doi.org/10.1165/rcmb.2012-0278OC
10. Lounsbury KM 2003 Crime scene investigation: an exercise in generating and analyzing DNA evidence Biochem Mol Biol Educ 31 37 41 10.1002/bmb.2003.494031010166 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.2003.494031010166
11. McNamara-Schroeder K, et al 2006 DNA fingerprint analysis of three short tandem repeat (STR) loci for biochemistry and forensic science laboratory courses Biochem Molecular Biol Educ 34 378 383 10.1002/bmb.2006.494034052665 http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bmb.2006.494034052665
12. North Carolina State University GEP category requirements Office of Undergraduate Courses and Curricula and Academic Standards [Online.] https://oucc.dasa.ncsu.edu/general-education-program-gep/gep-category-requirements/

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2016-12-02
2019-03-21

Abstract:

This introductory laboratory exercise gives first-year life science majors or nonmajors an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in basic bioinformatics and molecular biology laboratory techniques and analysis in the context of a mock crime scene investigation. In this laboratory, students determine if a human (Lady) or dog (Kona) committed the fictional crime of scaring a cat. Students begin by performing PCR using provided dog- and human-specific PCR primers to determine the sequences to be amplified and predict PCR amplicon sizes. They then BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) the PCR results to confirm that the PCR primers are designed to amplify genomic fragments of the cardiac actin gene in both dogs and humans. Finally, they use DNA quantification techniques, PCR, and agarose gel electrophoresis to identify the culprit and they confirm results by analyzing Sanger sequencing. Student learning gains were demonstrated by successful execution of the lab and by analysis and interpretation of data in the completion of laboratory reports. The student learning gains were also demonstrated by increased performance on a post-laboratory assessment compared to the pre-assessment. A post-activity assessment also revealed that students perceived gains in the skills and conceptual knowledge associated with the student learning outcomes. Finally, assessment of this introductory molecular biology and bio-informatics activity reveals that it allows first-year students to develop higher-order data analysis and interpretation skills.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Flowchart for the crime scene laboratory activity. These are the five parts to this crime scene lab, with the approximate timing of each. It is recommended that the activity span three 3-hour laboratory sessions, with parts 1, 2, and 3 performed in session 1, part 4 in session 2, and part 5 in session 3. PCR = polymerase chain reaction; DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid; BLAST = basic local alignment search tool.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Representative agarose gel electrophoresis results from a student PCR. The sizes (base pairs; bp) of the low DNA mass ladder are depicted on the left. The samples were loaded in the following order (left to right): low DNA mass ladder (ladder), Kona control DNA in dog PCR master mix (MM), Lady control DNA in human MM, crime scene DNA in dog MM, crime scene DNA in human MM. Expected dog and human PCR amplicons are observed in the Kona control (275 bp) and Lady control (397 bp) samples, respectively. This gel depicts Lady (human) as the culprit, as there is an approximate 400 bp band in the crime scene sample in human MM. PCR = polymerase chain reaction; DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid; MM = master mix.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Pre- and post-quiz results from the fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters. Median scores (with upper and lower limits) are displayed, with 16 students completing the pre- and post-quizzes in fall 2014 and seven students completing the quizzes in spring 2015. Data was analyzed with a Wilcoxon signed-rank test (SPSS Statistics, version 22), with -values displayed.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 451-457. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1122
Download as Powerpoint

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