Undergraduates are often familiar with textbook examples of human mutations that affect coding regions and the subsequent disorders, but they may struggle with understanding the implications of mutations in the regulatory regions of genes. We have designed a laboratory sequence that will allow students to explore the effect random mutagenesis can have on protein function, expression, and ultimately phenotype. Students design and perform a safe and time-efficient random mutagenesis experiment using error-prone rolling circular amplification of a plasmid expressing the inducible fusion protein glutathione S-transferase (GST)-mCherry. Mutagenized and wild-type control plasmid DNA, respectively, are then purified and transformed into bacteria to assess phenotypic changes. While bacteria transformed with the wild type control should be pink, some bacterial colonies transformed with mutagenized plasmids will exhibit a different color. Students attempt to identify their mutations by isolating plasmid from these mutant colonies, sequencing, and comparing their mutant sequence to the wild-type sequence. Additionally, students evaluate the potential effects of mutations on protein production by inducing GST-mCherry expression in cultures, generating cell lysates, and analyzing them using SDS-PAGE. Students who have a phenotypic difference but do not obtain a coding region mutation will be able to think critically about plasmid structure and regulation outside of the gene sequence. Students who do not obtain bacterial transformants have the chance to contemplate how mutation of antibiotic resistance genes or replication origins may have contributed to their results. Overall, this series of laboratories exposes students to basic genetic techniques and helps them conceptualize mutation beyond coding regions.
Cole, Jessica; Ferguson, Amanda; Segarra, Veronica A.; and Walsh, Susan, "Rolling Circle Mutagenesis of GST-mCherry to Understand Mutation, Gene Expression, and Regulation" (2017). Faculty Publications. 152.
Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education