Bacterial Transformation

In this lesson, students explore genetic engineering through bacterial transformation of the pKiwi plasmid producing fluorescent green bacterial colonies. 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. After transforming E. coli bacteria, students use the results to draw a scientific model that explains how the fluorescent bacteria were produced.

In the online version, students watch point of view videos to identify the necessary steps for a successful bacterial transformation. Students then analyze pictures of actual experimental results to inform their scientific model.

Learning Objectives

  • 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

Prior Knowledge

  • Structure and function of DNA
  • Relationship between genes and the proteins they code for
  • Bacteria as a model organism
  • Basic role of antibiotics

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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

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Amanda Cherry
Paradise Valley HS
Phoenix, AZ

The curriculum materials are beautifully prepared and easy to understand-thanks for preparing such great resources that are easy to use.

Byron Gougoumis
Burton HS
San Francisco, CA

All Babec labs are well organised and modelled effectively with clear, helpful procedural instructions, easily transposed to the classroom.

Gianne Souza
Lincoln HS
San Francisco, CA

The online resources are SO well done! The best I have ever had. Very little modification to make them clear and easy to follow. I have done two BABEC lessons and they are so well made that they made teaching online fun again.

Heather Johnson
Burlingame HS
Burlingame, CA

When doing the BABEC labs I consistently hear students say they feel like "real scientists."

Marianne Gudmundsson
Glenbrook South HS
Glenview, IL

Well organized and scaffolded; flexible structure and can be used partially or as a whole. This unit can be used as is...superbly written and thought out...incorporates many skills and allows student collaboration and student choice/voice.

Rocky Ng
South San Francisco HS
South San Francisco, CA

Thank you for creating these curriculum materials. I am beyond grateful for the quality lessons, on-the-point figures/videos, and easy-to-navigate biotechnology curriculum.

Thi Ngo
Capuchino HS
San Bruno, CA

The level of support really made the whole process easier and encouraged me to continue incorporating biotech into my curriculum. Thank you for the live assistance during the labs and for responding to inquiries so promptly and with such urgency.

Anonymous Teacher

Really well thought out curricula. Great to see "old" activities that have been re-imagined with lots of consideration to NGSS.

Anonymous Teacher

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Anonymous Teacher

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