Project Overview
Student Learning Objectives
Content Material
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Supplementary Resources


Introduction to Gene Structure

Project Overview

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 (,, 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 (  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 world.

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  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.