Lesson Five: Learning to Use Cn3D: A Bioinformatics Tool

Up to this point, students have seen the BRCA1 protein represented in a linear, sequential form. In this lesson, students are introduced to the high importance of a protein’s three-dimensional structure. Students first engage in a short activity in which they use a chenille stem to perform a simple function, as an analogy for the relationship between a protein’s structure and function. Students then learn to navigate between linear protein sequences and three-dimensional structures by using the bioinformatics tool Cn3D. Students begin by viewing and manipulating DNA—a familiar molecule to students—using Cn3D. When students are familiar with the program, students visualize parts of the BRCA1 protein to show how a specific mutation in the BRCA1 gene ultimately changes or destroys the protein’s function. In Lesson Five, students learn how 3D animators might use bioinformatics tools in their career.

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