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Full Stream Name: Biobricks for Molecular Machines

Research Educator: Soo Hyun Yang

Principal Investigator: Karen Browning

Credit Options: Spring & Fall

The teaching goal of the Biobricks stream is to train undergraduate students to learn and master the molecular and biochemical concepts of DNA cloning, recombinant protein expression and purification using the E.coli system, and western blot analysis. The students will get equipped with the laboratory techniques that could be applied in any field of biological science. In particular, students in the Biobricks stream will apply these techniques in studying the biochemical activities of proteins involved in RNA translation in A.thaliana. In one project, we are focused on examining the biochemical activity of a Cullin-based ubiquitin ligase (E3) called BPM3 in translation regulation in A.thaliana. BPM3 has been shown to target transcription factors that are involved in seed sizing and flowering time for ubiquitin dependent degradation to regulate its protein level. However, recent studies suggest that BPM3 may regulate protein level of its target by inhibiting translation through its interaction with eukaryotic initiation factors. Our current goal is to examine the direct impact of BPM3 on translation using an in vitro translation system derived from wheat germ. Our second project is focused on elucidating the functional difference between eIF4G and eIF-Iso4G in A.thaliana. Although eIF4G and its isoform, eIF-Iso4G, exhibit the same translational function in plants, the structural divergence of eIF-Iso4G, containing more substrate binding domains compared to eIF4G, suggests it may have additional functions in the cell. To study the binding partners of eIF-Iso4G, we have created a fusion protein called Neddylator-Iso4G, to apply the Neddylator system to identify novel binding partners of eIF-Iso4G.  

The students in our stream acquire molecular cloning and protein expression skills like:

  • restriction enzyme digestions
  • agarose gel electrophoresis
  • DNA gel extractions
  • sterile techniques involved in bacterial growth
  • plasmid purification
  • ligation
  • transformation
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • colony screening
  • bacterial plating
  • making competent cells and determining their transformation efficiencies
  • DNA concentration determination
  • protein expression techniques using IPTG inducible promoters
  • SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis
  • western blot analysis

Students are also trained in the following basic research skills:

  • how to critique a peer-reviewed journal article
  • how to keep a lab notebook journaling all their scientific findings
  • how to collaborate with peers
  • how to use time efficiently by multi-tasking
  • how to give oral presentations on their research
  • how to write a formal lab report summarizing research data
  • basic lab safety techniques

Department of Molecular Biosciences:


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Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Pre-Med, Public Health