Alu PCR – Jumping Genes in our DNA

Alu PCR Lab Introduction
In this lesson, students are introduced to PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) as a means of exploring the role of transposons (“jumping genes”) in genetic variation in populations. Students will identify their own genotype for Alu PV92 – a 300 base pair repeat found on chromosome 16, as well as gather information about the discovery of transposons in maize by Barbara McClintock and model the possible effects transposons can have on organisms.
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    In the lab portion, students extract DNA from their own cheek cells and amplify the Alu repeat using PCR. After visualizing their results using gel electrophoresis, students determine the genotype frequency in their class. They use this data as well as information learned in the lesson leading up to the lab to construct an explanation for how transposons affect genetic variation.

    This lab provides a great opportunity for students to use important skills of molecular biology (micropipetting, electrophoresis, PCR) to explain a pattern found in nature – science in action!

Lesson Resources
Student Guide – Download and edit student worksheets to be completed during the Alu PCR Lab.
Lesson Slides – Articulates with the student guide above and accompanying lesson plans below.
Lesson Plan – Suggested times for pacing, sequence and activities. Includes vocabulary tool, student readings, and other lesson resources.
Supplemental Resources – Includes background information, videos, and more related to the lab

Lab Resources
Student Lab Protocol – Students follow these instructions when doing the Alu PCR Lab.
Preparing the Classroom for the Lab – How to set up group stations for this lab experience.
Inventory Guide – Reagents and materials checklist for one classroom kit. Includes equipment and classroom needs for the lab.

  • Perform DNA Extraction, PCR, Gel Electrophoresis to detect the presence of Alu PV92 in your DNA
  • Explain how transposons affect genetic variation among individuals in a population using evidence from Alu PCR and maize as a model organism
  • Describe the role of regulatory DNA sequences in gene expression and model how transposons may affect an organism based on where in the genome they insert

Disciplinary Core Ideas:
LS1.A – Structure and Function
“…genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins.”

LS3.A – Inheritance of Traits
“…genes (expressed) by the cell may be regulated in different ways…”

Scicene and Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Constructing Explanations

  • Students explain how transposons affect genetic variation among individuals in a population using class genotype data for the Alu transposon information about transposons in other organisms

Crosscutting Concepts:
Cause and Effect
Systems and System Models

  • Students explore the relationship between transposons and traits using maize as a model

Familiarity with the following biology concepts may be helpful for students prior to using the lesson resources.

  • Structure and function of DNA
  • Relationship between genes and the proteins they code for
  • Experience with DNA extraction, micropipetting and gel electrophoresis

Kitty MeiAlu PCR – Jumping genes in our DNA