As you already know I work with Chlamydomonas to study how things assemble and function within the cilia (Cilia being short hair like structures on cells). And this is important because all cells (nearly all) have cilia and they are VERY important for the proper functioning of cells. Which means that if you don’thave properly functioning cilia, you could have serious symptoms like retardation, lung disorders, urinary problems etc etc.
Now… This post is not about the general background of the work… This post is about what I am doing right now… And i am doing really cool stuff.
I take genes from humans or mice that i know are important for cilia (I know this from previous studies) and i put them in bacteria. Why? Because bacteria are easy to grow, easy to kill, AND given the proper nourishment will keep my gene of interest in very good condition. This act of putting a gene into the bacteria is called cloning (bacterial cloning in this case). Once i’ve cloned the gene in, the bacteria start making many copies of it. This happenes because when they replicate, they replicate all the DNA present in them, including the gene i put in!
Now, provided i did everything right and there wasn’t any contamination, i have a culture of bacteria all of which have the gene i want. And ALL of them are activating the gene… The gene then produces a Protein. Proteins, as you’ll recall, are the building blocks of cells. They are the stuff that most things, including cilia, are made of within the cell. And through a very clever trick (called overexpressing) i’m forcing the bacteria to make unusually large amounts of this one protein that i’m interested in.
Since there’s a large amount of this protein, i can purify large amounts of it from the culture. And once i have these large amounts… I can do biochemical tests (more on those later) on it to see how it works. I can figure out what it looks like, What chemical properties it has, what physical properties it has and what other proteins it interacts with. From this i can make guesses about what its over all role in cilia might be… Is it a structural element? Meaning, is it a part of thestructure itself, like a brick? Or is it a regulatory element, meaning it facilitates the production of the bricks? Or maybe it transports the bricks? Or maybe it tells the cell when it has enough bricks… All of these are possibilities… And very exciting possibilities at that!
All this i can do with just one protein made in large quantities! What about if i made TWO proteins in large volumes?
I could then mix them together… and see if they work with each other… I could ask questions like “is the activity of one protein hindered, or enhanced, by the other?” I can get answers to these questions by doing a set of very innovative experiments!
In the coming weeks, I’ll go through these experiments in greater detail… And also explain the techniques i use in greater detail. Stick around! And also ask me any questions you might have! I’d be more than happy to answer them and help you understand my science better!
And don’t forget to check out my #Scifund project at Rockethub!
Until next time, Happy Sciencing and Happy Scifunding! (Yes, they are both verbs!)