DNA profiling tools to teach undergraduate students about forensics generally utilize the PV92 Alu and D1S80 VNTR markers, but are both limited in scope. In contrast, advanced profiling systems are costly and not practical for undergraduate laboratory courses. Therefore, I have designed a DNA profiling system for use in mid- to upper-level UG laboratory courses. Three dimorphic Alu-based PCR tetraplexes were developed that are simple to use, yet yield complex DNA profiles with 531,441 possible outcomes. This profiling system allows students to study forensics, paternity, human populations, and may have potential use in determining ancestry. A corresponding web site was developed to incorporate and analyze the generated data. In addition, I have designed a second project based on the concerted evolution of mammalian L1 elements yielding forensic and evolutionary data. This project involves student generated intra-L1 PCR DNA libraries, which are biased for “younger” elements, and utilizes a toolbox of standard molecular genetic techniques and bioinformatic tools. Students query sequences from individual clones via GenBank to identify the organism (or related organism) of the DNA source. Students can also generate a molecular phylogeny of sequences to contrast to known phylogenetic relationships of mammals, and will be the basis of a long-term project to produce a mammalian tree-of-life. These projects, suitable for genetics, molecular genetics, or genomics laboratories represent the initial phase for developing large-scale consortium-based projects.
1. Defining retrotransposons and their contributions to the dynamics of mammalian genomes
2. The use of retrotransposons as tools in analyses of forensics, ancestry, population genetics, and evolution