2014 designer genes training guide by Karen L. Lancour disclaimer

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by Karen L. Lancour
DISCLAIMER - This presentation was prepared using draft rules.  There may be some changes in the final copy of the rules.  The rules which will be in your Coaches Manual and Student Manuals will be the official rules.



  • Training Power Point presents an overview of material in the training handout

  • Training Handout presents introductory topic content information for the event

  • Sample Tournament has sample problems with key

  • Event Supervisor Guide has event preparation tips, setup needs and scoring tips

  • Internet Resource & Training Materials are available on the Science Olympiad website at www.soinc.org under Event Information.

  • A Biology-Earth Science CD, a Genetics CD as well as the Division B and Division C Test Packets are available from SO store at www.soinc.org

Students will solve problems using their knowledge of Molecular Genetics, Biotechnology, and Population Genetics. This event may be run as stations but it need not be. It is a very different event when run as paper pencil. The best competition is still as stations using process skills and problem solving.

1. At the various levels, possible areas to be tested are limited to the basic principles of genetics (see Heredity-B event training on SO website) plus the following topics:

Regional and State

Regional and State

National (all topics)

DNA structure & function

Sanger DNA Sequencing

Restriction mapping

DNA Replication including roles of enzymes

DNA fingerprinting


Gene expression including roles of enzymes


RNA processing





DNA microassays

DNA Repair

Organelle DNA

Molecular cloning


Plasmid selection and isolation

Gene Therapy

Next Gen Sequencing Platforms (comparison)

Every attempt should be made to avoid over-emphasis on a particular area.

Note: Regions or States may decide to cover all of the topics so check with your local tournament director for specifics.
2. Process skills may include observations, inferences, predictions, data analysis, and calculations.
Note: It is a good idea to review the General Genetics Prinicples that are in the Heredity Event

in Division B – they are very relavent to Designer Genes covers.





Central dogma of molecular genetics is DNA - RNA - Protein.
Exceptions among viruses – RNA to DNA (retroviruses) - Exception is in retroviruses where genetic storage vehicle is RNA. It then makes a DNA which replicates to form double stranded DNA and continues through dogma.
DNA Structure

DNA structure – double helix with sugar (deoxyribose), phosphate and nitrogen bases (Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Cytosine) Pairing – A with T and G with C

dna model

Nucleotide - basic unit of sugar, phosphate and nitrogen base - 4 kinds of nucleotides because of the 4 types of bases
DNA Replication
DNA replication is semi-conservative and occurs in the nucleus.


Events that occur:

  • DNA polymerase is the key enzyme

  • DNA uncoils and splits

  • template strand is read 3’ to 5’

  • new complementary strand must add new nucleotides to the 3’ end – leading strand (continuous) while lagging strand is fragments (Okazaki fragments) latter attached with the enzyme ligase


DNA Repair - Genes encode proteins that correct mistakes in DNA caused by incorrect copying during replication and environmental factors such as by-products of metabolism, exposure to ultraviolet light or mutagens. The DNA repair process must operate constantly to correct any damage to the DNA as soon as it occurs.


The replication fork is the unwound helix, with each strand being synthesized into a new double helix

  • Topoisomerase is responsible for initiation of the unwinding of the DNA.

  • Helicase accomplishes unwinding of the original double strand, once supercoiling has been eliminated by the topoisomerase.

  • DNA polymerase (III) proceeds along a single-stranded molecule of DNA, recruiting free

  • dNTP's (deoxy-nucleotide-triphosphates) to hydrogen bond with their appropriate complementary dNTP on the single strand (A with T and G with C), and to form a covalent phosphodiester bond with the previous nucleotide of the same strand.

DNA polymerases cannot start synthesizing de novo on a bare single strand. It needs a primer with a 3'OH group onto which it can attach a dNTP DNA polymerase also has proofreading activities, so that it can make sure that it inserted theright base, and nuclease (excision of nucleotides) activities so that it can cut away any mistakes it might have made.

  • Primase attaches a small RNA primer to the single-stranded DNA to act as a substitute 3'OH for DNA polymerase to begin synthesizing from. This RNA primer is eventually removed and the gap is filled in by DNA polymerase (I).

  • Ligase can catalyze the formation of a phosphodiester bond given an unattached but adjacent 3'OH and 5'phosphate. This can fill in the unattached gap left when the RNA primer is
    removed and filled in.

  • Single-stranded binding proteins are important to maintain the stability of the replication fork. Single-stranded DNA is very labile, or unstable, so these proteins bind to it while it remains
    single stranded and keep it from being degraded.

Differences between RNA & DNA

    • RNA is single strand - DNA is double strand

    • RNA has Ribose – DNA has Deoxyribose

    • RNA has Uracil – DNA has Thymine


Transcription and Translation utilize the DNA template code to ultimately produce proteins:

  • Transcription – DNA is template for making RNA (in nucleus) There are 3 types of RNA.

  • Translation (protein synthesis) - in cytoplasm at the ribosome. M-RNA has blueprint, T-RNA transfers amino acids, and Ribosome (R-RNA) allows T-RNA to attach to M-RNA at appropriate site.

  • many factors control gene expression including:

  • factors affecting DNA structure,

  • gene expression,

  • factors affecting assembly of proteins after

  • translation,

  • hormones,

  • environmental factors as viruses.

Types of RNA

Kinds of RNA – three kinds of RNA are produced in the nucleus using DNA coding strands

  • Messenger RNA (m-RNA) – carries genetic code from DNA into cytoplasm

  • Transfer RNA (t-RNA) – brings the amino acids for building of protein to be attached according to the genetic code of the M-RNA

  • Ribosomal RNA (r-RNA) – make up the ribosome and reads the code of M-RNA and allow T-RNA to attach and connect amino acids


  • miRNAs are RNA genes ( 20-25 nucleotides long) which are transcribed from DNA, but are not translated into protein (non-coding RNA)

  • Small non-coding RNA molecule which functions in transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression

  • MicroRNAs are a class of post-transcriptional regulators

  • They have the ability to regulate gene expression.

  • MicroRNAs are a type of regulatory RNA that can inhibit gene expression by halting translation.

  • They do so by binding to a specific location on mRNA, preventing the molecule from being translated.

  • MicroRNAs have also been linked to the development of some types of cancers and a particular chromosome mutation called a translocation.


Transcription - production of RNA in the nucleus using a DNA segment as a template and RNA polymerase as the key enzyme. transcription1

Post-transcription Modifications
RNA’s are modified in eukaryotes before leaving the nucleus.

  • PreM-RNA has exons (coding segments) and introns (noncoding segments between exons)

  • introns (the noncoding segments) are removed

  • a cap is added to the 5 end

  • a poly A tail is added to the 3end before it leaves the nucleus

m-rna modification

Universal Code (Codon = Amino Acid)

  • Each three base codon on the messenger RNA (m-RNA) is a code for an amino acid

  • There are 64 possible three base codons – 61 are codes for one of the 20 amino acids

  • The three remaining codons are termed stop codons because the signal the end of a peptide segment

  • Notice that many of the amino acids have more than one codon

  • A three base code on the DNA produces the mRNA codon

  • The three base code on the t RNA is termed an anticodon because it will bond to a m-RNA codon during translation or protein synthesis

Translation (Protein Synthesis)

Translation – genetic code used to form amino acid sequence using M-RNA, T-RNA, and R-RNA (ribosomes) occurs in the cytoplasm at the ribosome. Many key enzymes (proteins) are involved.
Translation (Protein Synthesis) protein_synthesis

The steps of translation:

  • Initiation: a mRNA enters the cytoplasm and becomes associated with ribosomes (rRNA + proteins) and tRNAs, each carrying a specific amino acid, pair up with the mRNA codons inside the ribosomes. The base pairing (A-U, G-C) between mRNA codons and tRNA anticodons determines the order of amino acids in a protein.

  • Elongation: involves the addition of amino acids one-by-one: As the ribosome moves along the mRNA, each tRNA transfers its amino acid to the growing protein chain, producing the protein

  • Termination: when the ribosomes hits a stop codon - UAA, UGA, or UAG - – no tRNA with its amino acid can be added so the ribosome falls apart and the process ends. The same mRNA may be used hundreds of times during translation by many ribosomes before it is degraded (broken down) by the cell.


A close up showing the M-RNA (with its codon) and T-RNA (with it anticodon as well as the Amino Acid) attaching at the P and A sites on the Ribosome.
Controlling Gene Expression in Prokaryotes
Gene expressions are strictly controlled at many levels to ensure the organism having the appropriate response to its environment or internal changes.  This is important for prokaryotes because there are usually single-cell organisms, and they largely depend on their environment for all of their activities
In bacteria transcription often occur as polycistrons, i.e., many functional-related genes are clustered and transcribed under the same types of regulation.  These are called operons.  An operon usually contains regulatory genes and structure genes.  The gene expression can be induced under certain circumstances or be constitutive.   Lac & Trp Operons - examples of prokaryotic gene regulation

  • Many of the prokaryotic genes as in E.coli are expressed or are always turned "on".

  • Others are active only when their products are needed by the cell, so their expression must be regulated.

  • Examples of Operons in E. coli trp_operon

  • The genes for the five enzymes in the Trp synthesis pathway are clustered on the same chromosome in what is called the Trp Operon - If the amino acid tryptophan (Trp) is added to a culture of E coli , the bacteria soon stop producing the five enzymes needed to synthesize Trp from intermediates produced during the respiration of glucos so the presence of the products of enzyme action represses enzyme synthesis This is a repressable operon where genes are expressed in the absense of a substance and the presense of the substance shuts off the gene

trp operon

  • The genes that code for the enzymes needed for lactose catabolism are clustered on the same chromosome in what is called the Lac Operon – prokaryotics as E. coli have a mechanism for metabolizing lactose – the sugar used for energy. Three proteins or enzymes are needed in lactose metabolism and they are encoded in a single expressible unit of DNA called the lac operon The E. coli only express the genes and make these enzymes when lactose is available to be metabolized. This is an inducible operon where genes are expressed in the presence of a substance

Control of Gene Expression in Eukaryotes
Eukaryotic genes usually contain three basic regulatory components:

  • Enhancers - short regions of DNA that can be bound with proteins to promote expression of a distal or a proximal gene.

  • Promoters - proximal DNA sequences that binds to RNA polymerase for regulating gene expression.

  • TATA Box - binds to transcription factor for regulating gene expression, usually within 30bp of the transcription start site.

Contols include:

  • Transcriptional Control

  • Post transcriptional Control – assembling proteins

  • Cell differentiation and specialization

  • Turning genes “on” and “off”

  • Chemical Signals – Hormones

  • Chemical Modifications

  • Relocation of DNA – transposons

  • Abnormal Expression of Genes

Nuclear vs Cytoplasmic DNA in Eukaryotic Cells

  • Nuclear DNA – in chromosomes within the nucleus of the cell

  • Cytoplasmic (or Organelle DNA) – in chloroplasts and mitochondria

  • Mitochondria and Chloroplasts have DNA similar to Prokaryotic cells

  • It is believed that these organelles were once independent prokaryotes who took up residence and formed a mutualistic relationship

  • They are involved in energy transfer- photosynthesis & respiration

    • Chloroplast DNA (cpDNA)

    • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)


    • Maternal inheritance

    • Resemble prokaryotic DNA

    • Slow accumulation of mutations

Mitochondrial Inheritance


  • The inheritance of a trait encoded in the mitochondrial genome

  • Mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA -genetic make-up of mitochondria, genetic code and patterns transmitted through mother.

  • The mtDNA is circular and resembles prokaryotic DNA

  • The mitochondria are responsible for energy production

  • Mitochondria can reproduce independent of the rest of the cell – an advantage in energy production

  • Persons with a mitochondrial disease may be male or female but they are always related in the maternal line and no male with the disease can transmit it to his children

  • Mitochondrial myopathies are a group of neuromuscular diseases caused by damage to the mitochondria-small, energy-producing structures that serve as the cells' "power plants."


  • Gene – section of DNA with carries the blueprint for making a peptide strand or RNA.

  • DNA in the living cell is subject to many chemical alterations - If the genetic information encoded in the DNA is to remain uncorrupted, any chemical changes must be corrected.

  • A failure to repair DNA produces a mutation

  • Mutation – changes in genetic code (DNA blueprint) of genes or chromosomes and causes changes in expression in the for making protein or RNA

  • Gene mutation

  • Chromosomal mutation

  • Agents causing mutations – radiation, chemicals, excess heat , viruses

Genetic Disorders

  • Causes of mutations – chemicals, radiation, temperature, viruses

  • Nondisjunction – chromatids do not separate properly during meiosis. Individual formed from such gametes have extra or missing chromosomes. as Down’s Syndrome

  • Trinucleotide repeats – sequences of 3 nucleotides is repeated, often several times in a gene when too many repeats are formed – cause genetic disorders triplet nucleotides -repeated too often as Huntington’s

  • Defective genes – does not produce correct protein as sickle cell anemia (A & T traded places)

  • Genetic disorders and their causes as nondisjunction (Down’s syndrome), trinucleotide repeats (fragile X and Huntington’s), defective genes (sickle cell anemia, hemophilia)

  • Human genetic disorders – can be dominant, recessive, sex-linked, epistatic, variable expressed

  • Crossover frequency – during meiosis, pieces trade places – determining frequency


  • Technology to manipulate DNA – techniques often called genetic engineering or

  • Recombinant DNA Technology Technology used to manipulate DNA

  • Procedures often called genetic engineering

  • Recombinant DNA - DNA from two sources

  • Transgenic individuals have DNA from another organism

  • Often involve putting genes into viruses or bacteria.

  • Vectors are the pieces of DNA used to transfer genes into a host cell – often plasmids of bacteria

Overview of Biotechnologyoverview 2

Basic Tools of DNA Technology

  • Identifying desired DNA

  • Cutting DNA with Restriction Enzymes

  • Inserting DNA into Vector as Plasmid

  • Connecting DNA pieces with Ligase

  • Inserting Vector into Host Cell as bacterium

  • Cloning desired DNA and Vectors

  • Storing clones in DNA Libraries

  • Identifying cloned genes with Radioactive Probes

  • Analyzing DNA by cutting fragments and separating by Electrophoresis

DNA Analysis Technologies

  • identifying – recognizing desired DNA fragment or plasmid using radioactive probes

  • cutting DNA - using desired restriction enzymes or “ enzymatic sissors”

  • making hybrids of DNA using Hybridization techniques

  • cloning DNA – using other cells or in a test tube as with PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction – clones - DNA segments in a test tube quickly and inexpensively. May use very small amounts of DNA to clone

  • storing DNA in DNA libraries of plasmids or bacteriophages of genome DNA or cDNA.

  • separating DNA segments with electrophosesis

  • transferring DNA using blotting

  • imaging DNA with autoradiography

  • analyzing DNA by sequencing or determining the nucleotide sequence of a gene, microassays analyze gene function and expression, DNA fingerprinting techniques as RFLP or restriction fragment length polymorphism, VNTRs or Variable Number Tandem Repeats, STRs or Short Tandam Repeats, Ribosomal DNA Analysis, or Y-chromosome Analysis

Basic Terminology

  • Inserting a gene into a bacterium - Organism provides the desired piece of DNA which is spliced into a piece of DNA used to transfer the genes or vector which is inserted to a Host cell (often a bacterium)

  • Plasmids– in bacteria, circular DNA serve as vectors. Easily taken up by bacterial cells. It is more difficult to insert vector into Eukaryotic cells.

  • Transgenic organisms have DNA from another organism

  • Restriction enzymes - enzymes to cut DNA at a particular spot and DNA ligase enzymes reattach ends.

  • Hybridization – process of putting pieces of DNA together.

  • Chromosome mapping – determining the location of genes on a chromosome and making a map

  • of restriction sites as Retriction Maps.

Basic Tools

  • Gene selection & isolation from Donor

  • Eukaryotic genes contain introns but bacteria do not contain the necessary enzymes to remove introns

  • Eukaryotic genes that are inserted into bacteria must be inserted without introns.

  • Use reverse transcriptase (from retroviruses) and modified M-RNA to produce cDNA with introns already removed

  • Plasmid selection & isolationc:\users\karenlancour\pictures\plasmid.jpg

  • A small DNA molecule that is physically separate from, and can replicate independently of, chromosomal DNA within a cell as a bacterium

  • When used in genetic engineering – called vectors

  • Several methods to isolate plasmid DNA from bacteria

  • Restriction enzyme to cut piece

  • Putting pieces together

  • DNA hybridization

  • DNA ligase to reattach pieces

  • Insert into Host bacteria

  • Clone the bacteria

cloning - plasmids

cDNA – complementary DNA

  • cDNA- Eukaryotic genes contain introns but bacteria do not contain the necessary enzymes to remove introns

  • Eukaryotic genes that are inserted into bacteria must be inserted without introns.

  • Use reverse transcriptase (from retroviruses) and modified M-RNA to produce cDNA with introns already removed


  • Storing clones in DNA Libraries

  • Cloning within cells and with PCR

  • Identifying cloned genes with Radioactive Probes

  • Analyzing DNA by cutting fragments and separating by Electrophoresis/nucleic acid hybridization/DNA probes

  • Transferring DNA from gel by Blotting

  • Imaging with autoradiography

  • DNA Sequencing to determine exact sequence

  • Microassays to analyze gene function

DNA Librariesdna libraries

DNA Hybridization hybridization

  • Base pairing of two single strands of DNA or RNA.

  • Can be DNA-DNA, DNA-RNA

  • Can be a radioactive probe

Radioactive Probes

  • short, radioactive strands of DNA

  • will pair up with complementing strands of DNA

  • fragments that contain the labeled pieces will show up on an x-ray film


A process in which molecules (such as proteins, DNA, or RNA

fragments) can be separated according to size and electrical

charge by applying an electric current to them.

DNA Analysis

dna analysis with southern blot

Analysis of DNA Fragments

  • When a plasmid is digested by restriction enzymes, the length of each fragment can be analyzed on a gel

  • Then the physical map of the plasmid can be constructed.

  • The DNA on gel can be analyzed by hybridization after transfer onto a membrane, this is called Southern blot.

  • A similar procedure called Northern blot is used to detect mRNA on a membrane.

  • Reverse transcription mediated PCR can also be used to analyze mRNA from cells.

Sanger Method of DNA Sequencing

  • Analysis of genes at the nucleotide level

  • Tool has been applied to many areas of research

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) - quickly making an unlimited number of copies of any piece of DNA requires knowing the sequence of the piece to be copied

  • Amino acid sequences can be determined more easily by sequencing a piece of cDNA

  • Can utilize sequencing to identify the site of a point mutation

  • Utilizes 2',3'-dideoxynucleotide triphospates (ddNTPs)sanger dna sequencing

  • First convert double stranded DNA into single stranded DNA

  • Determine the exact nucleotide sequence

  • Columns for A,T,C, and G

  • The sequenced strand can be read 5' to 3' by reading top to bottom the bases complementary to those on the gel. The sequence of the sequenced strand,


  • If one reads the bases from the bottom up, one is

reading the 5' to 3' complementary to sequence of the strand . The sequence of the strand of DNA complementary to the sequenced strand is


dna sequencing

DNA Fingerprinting Techniques

  • RFLP – Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (original)

  • PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction

  • VNTRs – Variable Number Tandem Repeats

  • STRs - Short Tandem Repeats

  • Ribosomal DNA analysis

  • Y-chromosome analysis

Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism – RFLP

  • The DNA of an organism is cut up into fragments using restriction enzymes.

  • A large number of short fragments of DNA will be produced. (RFLP’s)

  • Electrophoresis is a technique used to separate the DNA fragments according to their size.

  • Uses- identification of diseased genes including oncogenes, identification of viral infections, determining family relationships among individuals, and identifying tissue found at a crime scene.

  • Genetic variations at the site where a restriction enzyme cuts a piece of DNA.

  • Such variations affect the size of the resulting fragments.

  • These sequences can be used as markers on physical maps and linkage maps.


Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

  • Technique for quickly making an unlimited number of copies of any piece of DNA

  • Sometimes called "molecular photocopying



  • Short nucleotidesequences

  • Organized in clustersof tandem repeats

  • VNTR = 14-100 base pairs

  • SNR = 2- 10 base pairsvntr

Restriction Mapping

  • Description of restriction enzyme cleavage sites within a piece of DNA

  • Use of different restriction enzymes to analyze and generate a physical map of genomes, genes, or other segments of DNA

restriction maprestriction map 2

dna microassays

DNA Microassay

  • studying how large numbers of genes interact with each other

  • precisely apply tiny droplets containing functional DNA to glass slides

  • attach fluorescent labels to DNA from the cell they are studying.

  • labeled probes are allowed to bind to complementary DNA strands on the slides

  • slides are put into a scanning microscope that can measure the brightness of each fluorescent dot

  • brightness reveals how much of a specific DNA fragment is present, an indicator of how active it is.

  • Advantages of using microarray technology:

  • Readily available mature technology

  • Standard methods available

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Limitations of microarray technology:

  • Dynamic range of measurement is limited:

  • Intensity of fluorescent dyes

  • Sensitivity of scanning instruments

  • Non-specific hybridization

  • Known genome.


  • RNA-seq refers to the method of using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology to measure a set of RNA levels.

  • NGS technology is an ultra-high-throughput technology to measure DNA sequences.

  • Advantages of RNA-seq over microarray include:

  • Wider measurable range of expression levels

  • Not dependent on known genome

  • Free of hybridization artifacts

  • Possibility of one platform for all applications

Next Generation Sequencing Platforms

  • Roche 454 sequencer

  • Illumina Genome Analyzer (Solexa sequencing)

  • Applied Biosystems SOLiD sequencer

  • Comparison of the Second-generation DNA sequencing technologies

Applications of Biotechnology Techniques

  • Human Genome Project - entire gene make up of humans

  • Diagnosis of Disease – PCR & DNA probes

  • Human Gene Therapy

  • Vaccines & Pharmaceutical Products

  • Forensics – DNA Fingerprints (RFLP & VNTR)

  • Environmental – Recycling & detoxification

  • Agricultural – transgenic organisms

Gene Therapy - changing the expression of a person’s genes - body (somatic) or germ cells

done invitro or exvitro.


Major concerns concerning safety and ethics of recombinant DNA technology.

  • Potential Hazards vs. Potential Gains

  • Concerns:

    • genetically modified foods

    • genetically engineering microbes

    • cloning whole organisms

    • embryonic stem cell research

    • gene therapy

    • genetic testing

    • bioterrorism

Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene activity that occur without a change in the sequence of the genetic material. Epigenetics literally means ‘in addition to genetics’.

  • Epigenetic factors can regulate the amount of gene activity, influencing the growth and appearance of an organism

  • There are several epigenetic ways in which gene activity can be prevented or controlled, including

  • modification of histone proteins

  • DNA methylation

  • RNA interference

  • For any of these methods of gene regulation, the absence of the protein product of the gene causes a change in the function or development of the cell

  • malfunctions in epigenetic control of gene activity have been implicated in cancer, cardiovascular disease and several inherited genetic conditions


  • Study of evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms based upon their genetics

  • Has taxonomy folks in a turmoil – they can’t agree so we have national lists for our taxonomy events


  • DNA structure and Replication

  • Production of RNA from a coding strand of DNA - & post transcription modification of M-RNA

  • Protein Synthesis Analysis (Replication and Transcription)

  • Control and Detection of Gene Expression

  • Chromosome map units problems

  • Cross over frequencies

  • DNA sequencing

  • Restriction enzyme analysis – Making a restriction map of a plasmid or DNA segment.

  • Interpreting data from DNA fingerprinting studies

  • Forensic Uses of Biotechnology

  • Interpreting DNA analysis data + comparing RFLP and PCR forensic testing and analysis

  • Analyzing blood chemistry, blood typing and blood cell genetic information

  • Analyzing and interpreting chromosome maps

  • Understanding and interpreting the uses of restriction enzymes and radioactive probes

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