What do you get when you cross a yeast and first year biology students?
Apparently, a very cool undergraduate course and significant scientific innovation!
UC Berkeley students who are lucky enough to be enrolled in the university’s entry-level biology course are being exposed to a discovery-based learning curriculum that gives them hands-on bench experience and has resulted in the discovery of a novel technique published in the current issue of Genetics.
Under the mentorship of University of Massachusetts Amherst geneticist Jacob Mayfield, students devised a technique for testing the consequence of variant human gene alleles by moving them into yeast cells. Once swapped into yeast, colony growth was be compared to reveal functional differences.
The technique was used to compare allelic differences in the Cystathionine-beta-synthase (CBS) gene, created by site-directed mutagenesis. Deficiencies in the gene causes homocystinuria which can be rescued by vitamin B6 treatments. However, only some individuals respond to vitamin B6 treatment while others do not. Using the yeast metabolic profiling technique, researchers were able to ascertain which individuals, (based on their CBS sequence), would respond to the B6 treatment and which would not.
Sounds like a winning program to me!
Citation: Mayfield JA, Davies MW, Dimster-Denk D, Pleskac N, McCarthy S, Boydston EA, Fink L, Lin XX, Narain AS, Meighan M, & Rine J (2012). Surrogate genetics and metabolic profiling for characterization of human disease alleles. Genetics, 190 (4), 1309-23 PMID: 22267502