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Virtual laboratory: Gene Control, Human Biology Lab help


Part 1

Virtual laboratory:  Gene Control

In order to maintain homeostasis, a number of chemical reactions can influence whether a genome is switched on or off.  For example, reactions may occur at times when proteins are depleted and new proteins are needed.  These activities occur in many locations throughout the body.  The field of epigenetics includes the study of these reactions and the factors that are involved in the responses.  As you will see, the study of epigenetics has important implications for drug therapy and cancer treatment. 

This laboratory experiment will allow you to see how signals you apply will result in a change in gene expression to the genome.  Enter the laboratory here_(new window).  As you enter this laboratory you will see a diagram with three rectangular windows along the left (GFP gene, GFP mRNA, and Green Fluorescent Protein).  In the upper right you have a dial, a sound on/off button and a label button.  Below this area is the cell. 


  • Click on i in each of the windows to read a description of the lab materials (GFP gene, histone, methyl tag, acetyl tag, GFP mRNA, and Green Fluorescent Protein). 
  • Turn the dial so that the smaller circle is in the 7 o’clock position. 
  • Turn on the labels (the green indicator will light up) and note the sequence that will occur
  • Begin the experiment by turning the dial clockwise.  Observe what happens as you increase the signal. 

Answer the following questions in your lab report.  Your report will be entered in this link.

Lab Questions  (Note:  a separate answer sheet is required for submission.  Download it from  the Lab Report section, save it as a Rich text file – rtf,  add your answers to the questions, save and submit it in the designated area). 

  1. When you move the dial to the 9 o’clock position, describe what happens in the GFP gene window.
  2. At this 9 o’clock position, what effect does this increased signal have on transcription, and protein synthesis as seen in the other two windows?
  3. As compared to the first position (7 o’clock), what happens to the methyl tags as you increase the signal to the 12 o’clock position?
  4. Describe the appearance of the genome when:
    1. a gene is active
    2. gene is inactive
  5. That action allows the acetyl tags to become visible? 

 Part 2

Scientific Method

Read the next item in our virtual lab:  Could you really do this?_(new window)

Lab Question

6. Based upon what you have read,

    1. Generate a hypothesis for this experiment
    2. Indicate the dependent and independent variables

Part 3

Discussion:  Implications for Human Biology

As you enter the discussion, think about how you might continue looking at this type of work.  Most, if not all of us know someone who has cancer.  Read the third item in our virtual lab:  Gene Control and Cancer_(new window)There is a body of research that investigates how the genome interacts with the environment.  You have some indication of this if you look at the questions in What is your Risk_(new window), as these variables are the result of research that looks at cues from stress, diet, behavior, toxins and other factors that may result in chemical switches that regulate gene expression. For this discussion, you should look to the scientific literature to identify one or more of these possible cues and the research that supports it. 

ARTICLE REVIEW: *Please see general directions in the Reviewing Articles module tab.

Find a scientific journal article (not a website nor an article from the popular press) or book about research involving cancer risks and cues that may have an influence on gene expression. Write a review of this article/book including the following sections:

  • Link to the original article
  • Citation (author, date, title, publisher, etc.)
  • Summary of the article
  • Glossary of terms that you or your classmates may be unfamiliar with
  • Aspect of cancer cues addressed by your article
  • Relevance to human health issues
  • Next steps in this research
  • Personal experiences with risks associated with cancer

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