Welcome to UCMP’s Molecular Labs (cont.)

The Sequencing
Once the UCMP researchers have a successful PCR result, they determine the exact order or sequence of the bases in their amplified DNA sample. This is accomplished by using one of the two automatic sequencers. A fluorescent dye is attached to each individual base of DNA so that each of the four bases (adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine) has its own distinct color. Another electrophoresis is then carried out within the automatic sequencer. This time each base or letter is separated from the others as the DNA is pulled through the gel. The sequencing machine then relays the matching “letter” to a computer where the sequence is constructed. Together, the two machines are capable of sequencing 132,000 bases every ten hours! After the sequencing run is complete, our researchers analyze their data on one of the three computers dedicated to sequence analysis.

Beyond Just Sequencing
But more goes on in the MPL than just sequencing. The UCMP molecular research capability includes the ability to investigate the interaction of DNA, RNA and proteins within an organism.

  This enables us to answer important questions such as how many copies of a particular gene exist within the organism or whether or not the gene is active. Using these advanced techniques, Sharon Moshel-Lynch, the manager of the MPL and UCMP’s newest Museum Scientist, is determining the role of genes that regulate the early development of gastropod molluscs. Over the last five years UCMP has established an outstanding facility for conducting molecular research. These facilities have enabled our students, staff and faculty to study the biogeography, phylogeny, molecular systematics, development and evolution of living, and many extinct, taxa in ways unimaginable to our predecessors just a few short years ago. The museum plans to extend its role as a world-class repository for the history of life by including a genomics component that will house all of the DNA that has been extracted thus far (already well over 1000 specimens!) making them available to future researchers.

January, 2002

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