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A Hands-On Activity to Demonstrate the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology Via a Simulated VDJ Recombination Activity

    Author: Pamela A. Marshall1
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    Affiliations: 1: School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ 85069
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 23 November 2016 Accepted 12 April 2017 Published 11 August 2017
    • ©2017 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: School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 37100, Phoenix, AZ 85069. Phone: 602-543-6143. E-mail: pamela.marshall@asu.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1277
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    Abstract:

    Essential or enduring understandings are often defined as the underlying core concepts or “big ideas” we’d like our students to remember when much of the course content has been forgotten. The central dogma of molecular biology and how cellular information is stored, used, and conveyed is one of the essential understandings students should retain after a course or unit in molecular biology or genetics. An additional enduring understanding is the relationships between DNA sequence, RNA sequence, mRNA production and processing, and the resulting polypeptide/protein product. A final big idea in molecular biology is the relationship between DNA mutation and polypeptide change. To engage students in these essential understandings in a Genetics course, I have developed a hands-on activity to simulate VDJ recombination. Students use a foldable type activity to splice out regions of a mock kappa light chain gene to generate a DNA sequence for transcription and translation. Students fold the activity several different times in multiple ways to “recombine” and generate several different DNA sequences. They then are asked to construct the corresponding mRNA and polypeptide sequence of each “recombined” DNA sequence and reflect on the products in a write-to-learn activity.

Key Concept Ranking

Gene Expression and Regulation
0.9598703
B Cell Receptor
0.5017167
DNA
0.49037462
Light Chain
0.48448423
0.9598703

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2017-08-11
2018-07-16

Abstract:

Essential or enduring understandings are often defined as the underlying core concepts or “big ideas” we’d like our students to remember when much of the course content has been forgotten. The central dogma of molecular biology and how cellular information is stored, used, and conveyed is one of the essential understandings students should retain after a course or unit in molecular biology or genetics. An additional enduring understanding is the relationships between DNA sequence, RNA sequence, mRNA production and processing, and the resulting polypeptide/protein product. A final big idea in molecular biology is the relationship between DNA mutation and polypeptide change. To engage students in these essential understandings in a Genetics course, I have developed a hands-on activity to simulate VDJ recombination. Students use a foldable type activity to splice out regions of a mock kappa light chain gene to generate a DNA sequence for transcription and translation. Students fold the activity several different times in multiple ways to “recombine” and generate several different DNA sequences. They then are asked to construct the corresponding mRNA and polypeptide sequence of each “recombined” DNA sequence and reflect on the products in a write-to-learn activity.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

B Cell Receptor Structure and Recombination. A) Chromosomal gene structure of B Cell Receptor (BCR) light chain genes before recombination. Lines denote introns and rectangles denote potential coding regions. B) Process of BCR kappa light chain rearrangement. Recombination produces a gene structure in which one linker, one variable, one joining, and the constant region are translated after transcription and splicing. Used with permission from Mayer ( 2 ). P = promoter; L = leader; V = variable region; J = joining region; C = constant region; E = enhancer.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1277
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Instructions on how to fold the “chromosome.” A) Full length chromosome. B) P (promoter), L (linker), V (variable), and J (joining) regions chosen. C) Fold the left side of the paper toward the right side, so that a PVL region unit is brought close to a J region. D) Example recombination product with coding region circled. E) Chromosome after recombination with splice junctions shown; the closest promoter to the enhancer region (E) is used. F) example DNA, mRNA, and polypeptide results.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1277
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Example assignment folds. One P (promoter) – L (linker) – V (variable) region is recombined next to a J (joining region). This DNA model is then transcribed and translated to produce the mock kappa chain. Note the introns are not shown in the student handout. This is to focus the student on the application of the central dogma. Splicing is represented under the DNA strand.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. August 2017 vol. 18 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i2.1277
Download as Powerpoint

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