The structure and function of DNA

After you’ve read the letter that Francis Crick wrote to his son and found out about the structure and function of DNA, complete these interactive resources to be able to explain the structure and function of DNA inside a nucleus. The resources/ activities are for one school hour and one homework session.

On the side, complete the SoMi self assessment handout.

Animation and quiz: DNA structure

Learn Genetics: What are DNA and genes?

Learn Genetics: What are proteins (remember that making and processing proteins are main cellular processes: the genetic information to make proteins is stored in the DNA code).

Learn Genetics: Build a DNA molecule

Learn Genetics: Things you may not know about DNA

If you have more time, you can also review the interactive section Inside a Cell to review the structure of animal and plant cells.

Nervous System Animations

McGrawHill is an American publisher and provides excellent animations covering different aspects of neurobiology. This is a brilliant resource to understand the dynamics of biological processes related to neurons or the nervous system. All animations provide a narrative (check your vocabulary!) and a quiz to test your knowledge.

The Nerve Impulse

A Companion Website for the textbook Neuroscience (the chapter animations are useful)

Action Potential Propagation

Electric Signalling

Voltage Gated Channels and the Action Potential

Chemical Synapse 

Transmission Across a Synapse

Another useful resource for independent learning is

Neurons (Medical Education, University of Toronto)


The Resting Potential

Independent learning resources to study the dynamics of the resting potential (maintaining and generating the resting potential:



Human Evolution: A Comparison of the Genus Australopithecus and Homo

Explore these interactive timelines to

// Team A: compare characteristics of the genus Australopithecus and the genus Homo. In doing so, define criteria for your comparison by yourselves.

// Team B: Sum up the development from early hominins to Homo Sapiens based on the interactive timelines.

Timeline 1: Origins of Humankind

Timeline 2: Human Evolution Timeline

If you have time, you can also explore this interactive documentation for further independent learning: Becoming Human: an Interactive Documentary


Population dynamics of predator-prey relationships

Predation affects the population dynamics of both the predator and prey population. In this simulation you investigate predator-prey relationships over time and compare your findings with laboratory and field study results.

First work individually. Click the Simulation button in the bottom right corner. Familiarize with the simulation and the variables. Work out a trend that can be observed in the population cycles of predator and prey species and interpret the results if you change different variables.

Then pair up with a partner. Take it in turns to outline your results. Work out general model-based equations and principles of predator-prey relationships over time that can be concluded from the simulation. Eventually, evaluate pros and cons of data obtained in the laboratory, in a field study and in a computer based simulation.

 Weblink: Predator-Prey Simulation (you need to use the Google Chrome browser for this simulation).


Human Evolution: Making Sense of Ancient DNA

In May 2008, a pinky bone was found in a cave in Siberia (Wikipedia: Denisova Cave) and soon news reports enthusiastically claimed to have found a new human. Soon scientists had to revise their hypothesis and thinking due to new modern state-of-the-art molecular analysis, which lead to updates in the evidence for events in human history twice: in 2010 and 2015.

Team A:

Briefly sum up the significance of the discovery in the Denison Cave and explain the difference between the initial and recent classification of the discovery.

Team B:

You do not need a summary of the discovery, as you’ve already dealt with the topic in your  last exam and prepared to present the topic in class.

Your tasks are:

Explain the difference between the initial and recent classification of the discovery and outline how the method of PCR (Polymerase Chain reaction) can be useful in the investigation.

Here are the links to today’s resources:

Human evolution (Evolution 101, University of Berkeley).

Making sense of hominin DNA.

PCR animation I (Team B only)

PCR animation II (Team B only)

PCR information III (Team B only)


DNA Microarray Chips

DNA microarray chips are a technology that can be used to analyze gene expression patterns  and monitor the expression of thousands of genes simultaneously. Here are some brilliant resources for independent learning:

DNA Microarray at the DNA Learning Center

DNA Microarray (with an interactive lab exercise) at Learn Genetics, University of Utah

Using a DNA Microarray at Glencoe Biology online (animation and quiz)

Microarrays at Pearson Microbiology (animation and quiz)


p53: Molecule of the Year – Suggestions for independent learning

In 1993 the protein p53 was awarded Molecule of the Year by the magazine Science. It was the time that scientists began to understand that complex cellular regulation mechanisms control the expression of the human genome. The human protein p53 is 393 amino acids long; the abbreviation stands for p for protein and 53 for it’s molecular mass (53 kilodalton). The protein regulates the cell cycle because it is capable of stopping the cell cycle temporarily to allow the repair of DNA damages. If repair mechanisms fail, p53 induces apoptosis (programmed cell death). This mechanism prevents genetic damage to be passed to further generations.

The main focus of the activities this week is put on a) evaluating the quality of website content and b) biological principles of complex human cell cycle regulation processes.


Research on the biological role of p53. In doing so, find and evaluate the quality of several websites first (Tutorials: in English: Evaluate website content, University of Edinburgh || in German: Bewerten von Internetquellen, Universität Hamburg) and choose two sources for your work.

Create a Concept Map to illustrate the biological role of p53 (tutorial here).Only include new content in your concept map and avoid basic knowledge you’ve already learned about p53 in class.

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