Genetics & Molecular Biology

I'm in Berkeley right now at the annual Bio-Link Summer Fellows forum. We're getting to hear talks from people in the biotech industry, listen to enthusiastic instructors describe their biotech programs and ideas, and try out new educational materials. Yesterday, two speakers (Damon Tighe and Jason Baumohl) from the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, CA, gave a fun talk about DNA sequencing and sequence assembly. They also showed some very nice Flash animations, made by Damon Tighe, at the JGI, that illustrate how DNA sequencing is done ... Read more
I got my copy of "A short guide to the human genome" by Stewart Scherer today from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (2008, ISBN 978-087969791-4). Usually, I would wait until after I've read a book to write a review, but this book doesn't require that kind of study. As soon I skimmed through it and read some of the questions and answers, I knew this would be the kind of quick reference that I would like to have sitting above my desk. Scherer has compiled a wonderful text that not only answers many of the kinds of questions that I can think to ask about the human ... Read more
RFLP is an acronym that stands for "Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism." That's quite a mouthful and once you've said this phrase a few times, you realize why we use the initials instead. I know a Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism sounds like something that must be impossibly complicated to understand, but if we take the name apart, it's really not so bad. ... Read more
Dave Robinson and Joann Lau from Bellarmine College in Kentucky are going to be describing their student project in a free webinar next Friday, May 16th. Their students clone GAPDH (Glyceraldehyde 3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) genes from new plants, assemble the DNA sequences, and submit them to the NCBI. Here's an example. Plus, since GAPDH is a highly conserved, it's a great model for looking at ... Read more
In the class that I'm teaching, we found that several PCR products, amplified from the 16S ribosomal RNA genes from bacterial isolates, contain a mixed base in one or more positions. We picked samples where the mixed bases were located in high quality regions of the sequence (Q >40), and determined that the mixed bases mostly likely come from different ribosomal RNA genes. Many species of bacteria have multiple copies of 16S ribosomal RNA genes and the copies can differ from each other within a single genome and between genomes. Now, in one of our last projects we are determining where ... Read more
Ribosomes are molecular machines that build new proteins. This process of synthesizing a protein is also known as translation. Many antibiotics prevent translation by binding to ribosomal RNA. In the class that I'm teaching, we're going to be looking at ribosome structures to see if the polymorphisms that we find in the sequences of 16S ribosomal RNA are related antibiotic resistance. This is related to our ... Read more
You can find out. Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist has a fun little quiz.Read more
Goodbye desktop, we're off to see the web. Both my students and I have been challenged this semester by the diversity of computer platforms, software versions, and unexpected bugs. Naturally, I turned to the world and my readers for help and suggestions. Some readers have suggested we could solve everything by using Linux. Others have ... Read more
A few months ago I posed some questions about the regulations that might oversee personal genomics companies (Who's your Daddy? and Step right up, get your very own DNA profile). Why? Because I am biased. At Geospiza, where I work, we make software products that help our customers, who do DNA testing, meet FDA and CLIA regulations. ... Read more
I made this video (below the fold) to illustrate the steps involved in making a phylogenetic tree. The basic steps are to:
  1. Build a data set
  2. Align the sequences
  3. Make a tree
In the class that I'm teaching, we're making these trees in order to compare sequences from our metagenomics experiment with the multiple copies of 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes that we can find in single bacterial genomes. Bacteria contain between 2 to 13 copies of 16S rRNA genes and we' ... Read more

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