Amylase and CNV

This activity explores a data set on the frequency of copy number variants in the gene AMY1 that codes for amylase activity in the saliva. Amylase is an enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar. The activity builds on the HHMI data point showing how presence of multiple copies of the gene correlate to populations who had high starch diets.

In the past, this activity may have been more in person with discussions and group work, but the pandemic of 2020 has made those types of activities difficult. Students instead are walked through slides that explain copy number variants and ask them to analyze data and draw conclusions.

In the final section, students view data on dogs and the same gene that codes for amylase, where they can draw conclusions about why some dogs have more copy numbers than others. I find this analysis to be a good bridge between students learning about cells and macromolecules to learning about how DNA directly codes for those proteins and what evolutionary forces may act on those genes.

The activity is set up for remove learning, where students view the data on Google Slides and answer the questions on the slides. When assigning to students, make sure that each students gets a copy so that their slides can be edited.

Another activity that relates to copy number variants is this short read on how CAG repeats are associated with Huntington’s disease. Number of repeats determine how the disease will manifest and suggests reason why the CNVs persist in the human population.

The final synthesis slide asks students to design an experiment using Benedict’s solution as a test for the presence of sugars.

The TpT link below provides answers for the activity and tips for helping students understand the graphs.

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