Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab

Purpose of Course  showclose

This lab course supplements BIO101: “Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology.”  Although we cannot virtually replicate a true lab experience, this “lab” will allow you to become familiar with scientific thinking and techniques and will enable you to explore of some key principles of molecular and cellular biology.

The material in this lab supplement directly relates to the material covered in the lecture and reading portion of the course.  While the lecture and reading portion focuses on big-picture concepts, here we will focus more on visual understanding, manipulation, and practical use of your knowledge.  In each unit, you will work through tutorials related to important scientific concepts, and then will be asked to think creatively about how your knowledge can be put to practical or experimental use.

There are also activities devoted to learning important techniques in scientific study, including microscope use, DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction, and DNA microarrays.  As these are frequently used, and you will be expected to understand their use in your future studies, take this opportunity to become familiar with the proper equipment, procedure, and use of each technique.

Course Information  showclose

Course Designers: Olivia V. Ambrogio and Kitty Carney
 
Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes considerable use of the following materials:
  • University of Rochester: Life Sciences Learning Center
  • University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center 
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  Please note that while some units involve readings rather than lab exercises, these readings should not be treated lightly, as they will provide you with in-depth information on the ways in which hypotheses are formed and tested.  All units will have exercises for you to work on in order to learn more about the subject area, but in addition to exercises you will also need to complete questions in the following units and subunits:
  • Unit 2.2
  • Unit 3.2
  • Unit 4
  • Unit 5.3
  • Unit 6
  • Unit 7
  • Unit 8.2 
Time Commitment:This lab course should take you approximately 26 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.
 
Tips/Suggestions: Again, don’t ignore the sections that contain readings; even if there are not exercises associated with some subunits, take notes on what you’ve read and think of how you yourself would use this information in order to design your own experiments. What questions would you ask?  What would you need to know?  What hypotheses would you develop, and how would you test them?  What difficulties might you face? These questions are at the basis of all science, and thinking through them is the first exercise that any scientist sets him- or herself as s/he approaches a question or topic of interest.  Because these labs are designed to help you think about science, take notes on the information and ideas that best help you think about the scientific discipline and the best ways to approach molecular and cellular problems.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this lab supplement, student will be able to:
  • Identify the important components of scientific experiments and create their own experiments.
  • Identify the molecular differences between proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and explain the molecular behavior of water.
  • Describe the process of photosynthesis.
  • Describe the process of cellular respiration.
  • Identify the differences between DNA and RNA.
  • Describe the entire transcription/translation process, from gene to protein.
  • Explain how recombinant genomes are formed.
  • Use critical thinking to find ways that any of the above natural processes might be altered or manipulated.
  • Explain how to use a compound light microscope for data collection.
  • Explain how to conduct and use various experimental techniques, including DNA extraction, PCR, and DNA microarrays.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course, you must:
 
√    Have access to a computer.
 
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
 
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (i.e., Adobe Reader or Flash Player).
 
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
 
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
 
√    Have competency in the English language.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: Biology and Life  

    The lab materials for this unit will focus on the Scientific Method, methods for creating successful scientific experiments, and ways of understanding the experiments of others. 

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • Unit 2: Basic Molecules  

    In this section, we will focus on understanding how the chemical properties of water, macromolecules, and DNA play a role in their physiological functions within organisms.  We will learn how macromolecules can be experimentally differentiated from each other, and discuss why this differentiation might be important.  We will also learn about the chemical and physical structure of DNA and chromosomes.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 Water  
  • 2.2 Macromolecules  
    • Reading: J. Kousen’s “Biochemistry - Proteins through Nucleic Acids” and University of New Mexico’s “Biological Macromolecules”

      Links: J. Kousen’s “Biochemistry - Proteins through Nucleic Acids” (HTML) and University of New Mexico’s “Biological Macromolecules” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read through these two pages to gain a better understanding of the chemical properties that differentiate proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.  Think about how these differences affect how each macromolecule will interact with its environment and other nearby macromolecules.
       
      For the first reading, begin reading the text under the subtitle “Proteins” and continue through the section entitled “Nucleic Acids.”
       
      The second reading is an in-depth explanation of the Benedict, Iodine, and Biuret tests, which are commonly used to test for the presence of lipids, starches, and proteins.  Be sure you understand why each “works,” i.e. how each tests for the presence of its particular macromolecule.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: Oklahoma City Community College: Dennis Anderson’s “Organic Molecules” Lab

      Link: Oklahoma City Community College: Dennis Anderson’s “Organic Molecules” Lab (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the “Organic Molecules” link on this page to access the lab.  Click through this virtual lab to visually understand how Benedict, Iodine, Biuret and Sudan IV tests would be conducted.  Using your knowledge from the previous reading, explain the test results.  Then answer the following questions:
       
      1)    What are the identifiable differences between proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates?
      2)    How can these macromolecules be experimentally differentiated?
      3)    When might it be necessary to experimentally differentiate between these macromolecules?
       
      When you are done, check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 2.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3 DNA  
  • Unit 3: Cells  

    Cells are the basic unit of life.  In this section, you will learn about cell structure and how cells are studied.  We will begin with instruction on microscope use, and then study the basic cell types.  An understanding of the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells will be emphasized.  

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Equipment  
  • 3.2 Prokaryotic vs. Eukaryotic: Cell Structure and Organization  
    • Interactive Lab: Wiley’s Interactive Concepts in Biochemistry “Cell Structure” and Wisconsin Online’s “Typical Animal Cell”

      Links: Wiley’s Interactive Concepts in Biochemistry “Cell Structure” (Adobe Flash) and Wisconsin Online’s “Typical Animal Cell” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please click through these two tutorials to gain a visual understanding of cell structure in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. The tutorials provide an overview of the structure of prokaryotic, animal, and plant cells. 
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Universidad de Salamanca: Professor Cifuente’s “De Duve”

      Link: Universidad de Salamanca: Professor Cifuente’s “De Duve” (PDF) [Missing; originally http://web.usal.es/~merchan/]
       
      Instructions: Please click on the “De Duve” link on this page to access a PDF detailing methods used to determine organelle function.  Then ask yourself the following questions:
       
      1)    How did de Duve experimentally test for the function of an organelle?
      2)    What were the controls and variables in de Duve’s described experiment?
       
      When you are done, check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 3.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • Unit 4: Photosynthesis  

    Photosynthesis is the process that allows plant cells to “create” energy for themselves, to continue to exist, and to grow.  The activities below will focus on understanding both the overall effects and results of photosynthesis and the individual steps that enable photosynthesis to occur.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Web Media: University of Rochester: Life Sciences Learning Center’s “Photosynthesis” and John Kyrk’s “Photosynthesis: Light Reactions and Dark Reactions”

      Links:  University of Rochester: Life Sciences Learning Center’s “Photosynthesis” (Flash Animation) and John Kyrk’s “Photosynthesis: Light Reactions (Adobe Flash) and Dark Reactions” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please click through these three tutorials for a walk-through of the photosynthetic process.  The first tutorial provides a general overview; the other two provide important specifics about the two phases of photosynthesis: the Light Reactions (Photosynthesis I) and the Dark Reactions (Photosynthesis II).  As you work through these tutorials, think about how the steps are interrelated and consider the important environmental factors surrounding each step in the process. 
       
      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the Life Sciences Learning Center, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

    • Reading: Plant, Cell, and Environment: USDA’s “Can Improvement in Photosynthesis Increase Crop Yields?”

      Link: Plant, Cell, and Environment: USDA’s “Can Improvement in Photosynthesis Increase Crop Yields?” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      EPUB

      Instructions:  Please click the link for this article on the web page to access the PDF.  Please read the entire article and take notes on how and why the authors suggest that artificial alteration of photosynthesis might be beneficial.  Then answer the following questions:
       
      1)     What methods were suggested as possible mechanisms for increasing photosynthetic rate?
      2)     Can you summarize a possible experiment that could test whether one of the suggested methods would work to increase photosynthetic rate and/or crop yield?  Please indicate the controls and variables.
       
      When you are done, check your work against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 4.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: This material is part of the public domain. 

  • Unit 5: The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology  

    This unit focuses on transcription and translation, or the journey from DNA to protein.  We will begin with an overview of the process, followed by an introduction to the “manual practice” of each of the steps.  Related scientific techniques, including Polymerase Chain Reaction and DNA microarrays, will also be covered.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Web Media: University of Rochester: Life Science’s Learning Center’s “DNA to RNA to Protein”

      Link: University of Rochester:  Life Sciences Learning Center’s “DNA to RNA to Protein” (Flash Animation)
       
      Instructions: Please watch this tutorial for a visual understanding of the entire transcription and translation process.
       
      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the University of Rochester's Life Sciences Learning Center, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

    • Activity: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “Transcribe and Translate a Gene”

      Link: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “Transcribe and Translate a Gene” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please complete this interactive game to practice “manual” transcription and translation.  As you work on this activity, think about how the contents of the original strand of DNA relate to the final protein produced.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Kimball’s Biology Pages: “The Genetic Code”

      Link: Kimball’s Biology Pages: “The Genetic Code” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: This reading is optional; you may read this page for further information about translation and transcription.  This page contains a list of codons and corresponding amino acids, which may be helpful when practicing mRNA translation.
       
      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of John Kimball, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • 5.1 Transcription  
  • 5.2 Translation  
    • Activity: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Dolan DNA Learning Center’s "Ribosome Game”

      Link: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory: Dolan DNA Learning Center’s “Ribosome Game” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please complete this game for an understanding of how the RNA complex produces needed proteins from mRNA.
       
      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Dolan DNA Learning Center, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • 5.3 Regulation of Gene Expression  
    • Web Media: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “DNA Microarray Virtual Lab”

      Link: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “DNA Microarray Virtual Lab” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please click through this tutorial to learn how microarrays are created and how scientists use them to study differences in gene expression between cells.  Microarrays are widely used in cellular and molecular biology, so be sure you understand how they work.  Practice walking yourself through the process step by step, without prompting.  Then answer the following question:
       
      How would you determine which protein a strand of DNA codes for?
       
      Check your answer against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 5.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 6: Cellular Metabolism  

    Cellular metabolism consists of glycolysis and cellular respiration.  Our activities in this unit will focus on understanding the process of cellular respiration, what is required for it to occur, and how it can be altered.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Cellular Respiration”

      Link: Wikipedia’s Article on “Cellular Respiration” (PDF)
       
      Instructions:  Please read this page to refresh your memory regarding the cellular respiration process, which you learned about in the lecture portion of this course.  Pay special attention to the reactants and products of each reaction that occurs during respiration.  Practice writing out the entire process of respiration on your own, without looking at your notes.
       
      Terms of Use: The article above is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 (HTML).  You can find the original Wikipedia version of this article here (HTML).

    • Web Media: University of Rochester: Life Sciences Learning Center’s “Cellular Respiration”

      Link: University of Rochester: Life Sciences Learning Center’s “Cellular Respiration” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please click through this tutorial to visually familiarize yourself with the process of cellular respiration.  As you work through this material, think about how each step in the process relies upon the last, and what role environmental factors play in the process.  Then answer the following questions:
       
      1)    How could you experimentally alter cellular respiration?
      2)    Why might it be beneficial in some situations to do so?
       
      Check your answers against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 6.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of the University of Rochester's Life Sciences Learning Center, and can be viewed in its original form here.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

  • Unit 7: Molecular Genetics  

    Much of modern biological inquiry has to do with understanding genes, their functions, and how they work together to produce a tangible result.  The activities below focus on experimental manipulation of genes in the form of recombination to allow rapid study of genetic function or to provide quick solutions for undesirable genetic combinations in agriculture or medicine.

    Unit 7 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 7 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • Unit 8: Cell Division  

    There are two types of cell division: mitosis, and meiosis.  In this unit, we will study both types, and discover what makes them different from each other.  An understanding of the cell cycle and how division fits into it is emphasized.  The unit begins with a lesson on how to create a “karyotype” (essentially, a photograph of a cell’s chromosomes).  It is important to visually understand the chromosomal content of a cell here, since chromosomal replication and division is an integral part of the cell division process.

    Unit 8 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 8 Learning Outcomes   show close
    • Interactive Lab: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “Make a Karyotype”

      Link: University of Utah: Genetic Science Learning Center’s “Make a Karyotype” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Before studying the process of cell division, click through this tutorial to learn about what a full “set” of chromosomes is, and how scientists can extract and document a full set of chromosomes from a subject for study.  Think about how creating a subject’s karyotype would be useful in a medical or other scientific study.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 8.1 Mitosis  
  • 8.2 Meiosis  
    • Web Media: Cells Alive!’s “Animal Cell Meiosis” and Rutgers University’s “Meiosis Lab”

      Links: Cells Alive!’s “Animal Cell Meiosis” (Adobe Flash) and Rutgers University’s “Meiosis Lab” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please click through the Cells Alive! tutorial to gain a visual understanding of the process of meiosis.  Be sure that you can remember all of the steps in the process and identify the stage of meiosis by the appearance of the virtual cell.  Then move on to the mitosis lab, where you will see pictures of actual cells undergoing mitosis, and practice your understanding.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: PBS: NOVA Online’s “How Cells Divide”

      Link: PBS: NOVA Online’s “How Cells Divide” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please click through this tutorial to gain a visual understanding of the differences between meiosis and mitosis.  The steps of each process will occur concurrently on the screen, allowing you to note the differences.  Then, answer the following questions:
       
      1)    How could you use your knowledge of cell division to understand how best to experimentally inhibit or promote cell growth?
      2)    When might doing this be practically useful?
       
      Check your answers against the Saylor Foundation’s “Answer Guide 8.” (PDF)
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.