Introduction to Genetic Engineering – Bacterial Transformation

Bacterial Transformation Lab Introduction
In this lesson, students explore genetic engineering through bacterial transformation of a gene from bioluminescent jellyfish resulting in bright green fluorescent bacterial colonies producing the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Transformation is used widely in biotechnology ranging from the production of human insulin to introducing genes coding for traits such as frost, pest or drought resistance in plants.
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    This lab is an opportunity for hands on exploration of genetic engineering. This version of bacterial transformation does not require the concept of gene regulation. It can introduce or review topics ranging from recombinant DNA, transcription, translation, protein expression, and could be used to enter into a discussion about the ethical considerations of this technology.

    In addition to green (pKiwi), BABEC also has a red (pCherry) and orange (pPeach) plasmid. Please ask us if you have any questions regarding alternate colors and how to order. Also, to teach Bacterial Transformation with Gene Regulation, click here.

Lesson Resources
Student Guide – Download and edit student worksheets to be completed during the Bacterial Transformation 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 reading, and other lesson resources.
Supplemental Resources – Includes background information, outside articles, videos, and more related to the lab.

Lab Resources
Student Lab Protocol – Students follow these instructions when doing the Bacterial Transformation 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.

  • Use the process of bacterial transformation to introduce a fluorescent jellyfish gene into E. coli bacteria
  • Define “genetic engineering” and describe examples of genetically modified organisms
  • Explain what happens inside transformed bacteria to produce a new trait using cause-and-effect language and by creating a scientific model

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…”

Science and Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Constructing Explanations
Students explain how bacterial transformation leads to a new trait by creating a graphic model and writing using cause-and-effect language

Crosscutting Concepts:
Systems and System Models
Bacterial transformation is a model for manipulation of gene expression in genetic engineering

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
  • Bacteria as a model organism
  • Basic role of antibiotics

Kitty MeiBacterial Transformation