This site contains user-friendly tools to launch DNA database searches, statistical analyses, and population modeling from a centralized workspace. Educational databases support investigations of an Alu insertion polymorphism on human chromosome 16 and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the human mitochondrial control region.
Genetic engineering is responsible for the so-called "second green revolution." Genes that encode herbicide resistance, insect resistance, drought tolerance, frost tolerance, and other traits have been added to many plants of commercial importance. In 2003, 167 million acres of farmland worldwide were planted in genetically modified (GM) crops equal to one fourth of total land under cultivation. The most widely planted GM crops are soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and papaya. Two important transgenes have been widely introduced into crop plants. The Bt gene, from Bacillus thuringiensis, produces a toxin that protects against caterpillars, reducing applications of insecticides and increasing yields. The glyphosate resistance gene protects food plants against the broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which efficiently kills invasive weeds in the field. The major advantages of the "Roundup Ready®" system include better weed control, reduction of crop injury, higher yield, and lower environmental impact than traditional herbicide systems. Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that more than 60% of fresh vegetables and processed foods sold in supermarkets today are genetically modified by gene transfer. In 2004, approximately 85% of soy and 45% of corn grown in the U.S. were grown from Roundup Ready® seed.
The goal of the Genetic Origins Program is to allow students to use their own DNA variations (polymorphisms) as a means to explore our shared genetic heritage and its implications for human health and society. Genetic Origins focuses on two types of DNA variations: an Alu insertion polymorphism on chromosome 16 (PV92) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the control region of the mitochondrial (mt) chromosome. With two alleles and three genotypes, PV92 is a simple genetic system that illustrates Mendelian inheritance on a molecular level. PV92 data is readily analyzed using population statistics. The mt control region is one of the simplest regions of human DNA to sequence. With a high mutation rate, the mt control region is the "classical" system for studying human and primate evolution. The Genetic Origins site and linked Bioservers site have all the information needed for students to perform the Alu and mt DNA experiments and analyze the results - including online protocols, reagents, animations and videos explaining key concepts, and database tools.
The Greenomes site is part of a laboratory- and Internet-based curriculum to bring college students up to the minute with modern plant research. Plant molecular genetic and genomic research still lags behind medically-oriented research on microbes and higher animals. As a result, there are relatively few lab experiences that expose college-level students to the growing insights into plants offered by genomic biology.