Investigation: Gene Switches in Stickleback Fish


This activity was modified from HHMI’s “Modeling the Regulatory Switches of the Pitx1 Gene in Stickleback Fish”  The activity is presented as a type of investigation or case study where students examine regulatory switches and was a short film that describes the role of the Pitx1 gene in the development of spines.

Students can work through the case in small groups, though I also have google slides for pause and discussion.   Ideally, this activity would occur during the section on DNA and gene expression and may require students to have a background knowledge about operons.  (The lac operon and trp operon are included in the slides, so you could introduce the topic here.)

Overall, this activity is intended to be completed quickly, as a hybrid between watching a film, examining models of regulatory switches and discussing evolution.  Students synthesize their thoughts on the handout provided. 

 I have used this as a way to bridge the concept of genetics and DNA to evolution.    This is why you can see a VIDA chart (variation, inheritance, differential survival, adaptation) within the slides.


Time Required:  45-55 minutes
Grade Level:  11-12 (AP Biology)

HS-LS1-1 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the   structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins   which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.

HS-LS3-1 Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.



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