Scaling Up: Adapting a Phage-Hunting Course to Increase Participation of First-Year Students in Research
This work describes the project for an advanced undergraduate laboratory course in cell and molecular biology. One objective of the course is to teach students a variety of cellular and molecular techniques while conducting original research. A second objective is to provide instruction in science writing and data presentation by requiring comprehensive laboratory reports modeled on the primary literature. The project for the course focuses on a gene, MSH2, implicated in the most common form of inherited colorectal cancer. Msh2 is important for maintaining the fidelity of genetic material where it functions as an important component of the DNA mismatch repair machinery. The goal of the project has two parts. The first part is to create mapped missense mutation listed in the human databases in the cognate yeast MSH2 gene and to assay for defects in DNA mismatch repair. The second part of the course is directed towards understanding in what way are the variant proteins defective for mismatch repair. Protein levels are analyzed to determine if the missense alleles display decreased expression. Furthermore, the students establish whether the Msh2p variants are properly localized to the nucleus using indirect immunofluorescence and whether the altered proteins have lost their ability to interact with other subunits of the MMR complex by creating recombinant DNA molecules and employing the yeast 2-hybrid assay.