The information for human protein
sequences is hidden in the chromosomal DNA of every cell in your
body. The sequences of information (Exons or expressed sequence)
are separated by intervening sequences of DNA (Introns) that have no
information for the protein sequence. Each cell decides which
proteins it will manufacture and then transcribes a larger sequence
into RNA. It must then “splice” the introns out and combine the
exons, and translate the mRNA to make a protein. The students will
see real data pertaining to this process by examining the human
adult beta-globin gene.
Although this project is designed
to be undertaken by one to several students in a computer lab, it is
possible that this project could be used as a homework assignment if
the class has adequate computer access after class.
For this activity, students will
search the Human Genome Project data using free programs from the
NCBI* website. The basis of the Human Genome Project (http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/home.shtml,
http://www.genome.gov/) was to sequence the entire human genome
(3 billion bases). This monumental task was accomplished with help
from countries all over the world, with the understanding that the
information belonged to all of mankind and should be open and
available to anyone. The site has dedicated computers that will
perform a host of searches and sequence manipulations with a wide
variety of programs. There is no cost involved with using any of
the NIH, NCBI and NLM software. All programs used are in the public
domain and are, therefore, free to use. The NCBI also offers free
courses to anyone who wishes to attend (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Class/FieldGuide/).
This RWLO is designed to allow students to get a small taste of the
awesome possibilities of using one of the largest databases in the
It may be useful to visit the DOE
website and get a FREE Wall Poster of Human Chromosomes and Genes.
The site to request this is
www.ornl.gov/hgmis/posters/chromosome. This poster can also be
viewed online at
National Center for
Biotechnological Information, National Library of Medicine, United
States Department of Health and Human Services.