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Free Resources for Science Education

Gene Switch

Gene Switch Overview

Regulatory "switches" are found upstream from a gene. Regulatory molecules bind to the switches and recruit RNA polymerase to bind to the gene's promoter region, increasing the transcription of the gene into messenger RNA.

Gene Switch Overview Background

Each gene has a promoter region near its upstream end. When a gene is transcribed into messenger RNA, the promoter region binds special proteins called transcription factors. These proteins recruit RNA polymerase, in a complex with proteins, to bind to the gene and create messenger RNA from the gene. The messenger RNA is then used to make the gene's protein product. Regulatory "switch" regions found upstream of the promoter region allow an additional level of genetic control. These switches help the transcription factors bind to the promoter region. Multiple switches can be present next to a gene. Different switches can be active at different times during development and in different cells, allowing the gene products to be expressed at the appropriate times and places.

From Lecture Four of the 2005 Holiday Lectures Series "Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads"

Gene Switch Overview Teaching Tips

The animations in this section have a wide variety of classroom applications. Use the tips below to get started but look for more specific teaching tips in the near future. Please tell us how you are using the animations in your classroom by sending e-mail to biointeractive@hhmi.org.

  1. Use the animations to make abstract scientific ideas visible and concrete.
  2. Explain important scientific principles through the animations. For example, the biological clocks animations can be used to demonstrate the fundamentals of transcription and translation.
  3. Make sure that students learn the material by repeating sections of the animations as often as you think necessary to reinforce underlying scientific principles. You can start, restart, and play back sections of the animations.
  4. Urge students to use the animations in accordance with their own learning styles. Students who are more visually oriented can watch the animations first and read the text later, while others might prefer to read the explanations first and then view the graphics.
  5. Incorporate the animations into Web-based learning modules that you create to supplement your classroom curricula.
  6. Encourage students to incorporate the animations into their own Web-based projects.


The 2005 Holiday Lectures Series "Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads"

Gene Switch Overview Credits

Director: Dennis Liu, Ph.D.

Scientific Direction: David M. Kingsley, Ph. D.

Scientific Content: Satoshi Amagai, Ph.D.

Animator: Blake Porch

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