Investigation: Gel Electrophoresis


This procedural lab is a great compliment for genetic studies where students learn about sex linked genes and mutations.   The allele for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is located on the X chromosome and is associated with a deletion mutation for that region.  This section of DNA is shorter than the wild-type (normal) allele.  When run through gel, the shorter, mutant fragments will move farther.   Students use dyes to simulate DNA samples from a family where the mother is a known carrier.  Students learn how to set up electrophoresis chambers, load the wells and analyze the banding pattern created after electricity is applied.

Students get the experience of gel electophoresis, but the focus of the exercise is on NGSS standard regarding the relationship between genes, chromosomes, and traits.   Background knowledge regarding Mendelian genetics and sex-linked crosses is helpful, but not necessary if you wanted to use this exercise to introduce the topics.

The equipment is expensive, and for many years I borrowed the chambers from a nearby university. You can order the electrophoresis chambers and power supplies from biological supply companies and from Amazon.  The dye samples can also be ordered from supply companies, instructions on making the dye is included, but I believe you can purchase dye sets that are pre-made.

Grade Level:  11-12
Time Required:  2 class periods, 1 to discuss scenario and create gels, 2nd day for running samples and analysis

Download PDF Google Doc

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.  

CCC 1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.


  1. Deenie Clinton
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