HomeHHMI's BioInteractiveBiochemistry and Cell Signaling Pathway of the Mc1r Gene


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Classroom Resource
Biochemistry and Cell Signaling Pathway of the Mc1r Gene


An advanced lesson that requires students to analyze partial DNA sequences of the Mc1r gene and identify the effects of mutations on the MC1R protein pathway.

Appropriate for: high school biology (AP, IB), introductory college biology.

This lesson serves as an extension to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute short film The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation. Students will use amino acid sequences from the rock pocket mouse genome to illustrate the different levels of protein structure and the relationship between a protein’s structure and function. In addition, students analyze the MC1R signaling pathway in both light- and dark-colored rock pocket mouse populations. Through their analysis, students will come to understand the concepts of cell signaling. Finally, students hypothesize how the change in sequence and thus protein function might directly affect the coat-color cell signaling pathway of the rock pocket mouse populations.

Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (April 2013)
HS-LS1-1, HS-LS3-1, HS.LS1.A, HS.LS4.B, HS.LS4.C

Common Core (2010)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.7

AP Biology (2012–13)
3.D.1, 3.D.3, 4.A.1, 4.B.1

IB Biology (2009)
2.4, 3.5, 4.1, 4.3, 7.3, 7.4, 7.5, C.1, G.1

Supporting Materials (7)

Short Film
The rock pocket mouse is a living example of Darwin’s process of natural selection.
Interactive Video
Embedded quiz modules test students’ understanding as they watch the short film on the rock pocket mouse—a living example of Darwin’s process of natural selection.
Classroom Resource
An activity in which students analyze amino acid data and draw conclusions about the evolution of coat color phenotypes in different rock pocket mouse populations.
Classroom Resource
A lesson that requires students to transcribe and translate portions of the wild-type and mutant rock pocket mouse Mc1r genes and compare sequences to identify the locations and types of mutations responsible for the coat color variation described in the film.
Classroom Resource
A data collection and analysis lesson that examines selection for coat color in pocket mouse populations on different color substrates over time.
Classroom Resource
A lesson that uses real rock pocket mouse data collected by Dr. Michael Nachman and his colleagues to illustrate the Hardy-Weinberg principle.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation, which describes the physical and genetic evolutionary changes in rock pocket mouse populations.

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