No Longer a Headache
Department of Biology
This clicker case study follows a dialogue between two college students, Lucy and Dan, as they discover how alternative splicing of mRNA molecules can allow a single gene to code for multiple proteins. Dan is participating in a clinical trial for a drug that may treat his migraines by inhibiting calcitonin gene-related peptide, and Lucy is working in a summer research lab that studies the protein calcitonin. They soon realize that the two proteins are both encoded by the same gene, and through their questioning and dialogue they come to understand the phenomenon of alternative splicing. They also learn about other steps of mRNA processing and about monoclonal antibodies. This case was designed to be taught in a flipped classroom, but could easily be adapted for a more traditional classroom setting if content covered in the pre-class videos is covered during the case study instead. It was designed for an introductory-level molecular biology course, but could be adapted for higher levels by including more information about the physiology and regulatory mechanisms involved.
- Differentiate between a pre-mRNA and a mature mRNA in eukaryotes.
- Explain the mechanism by which introns can be removed during mRNA processing.
- Explain how alternative splicing can allow a single pre-mRNA (and thus a single gene) to give rise to several unique mature mRNAs.
- Explain how monoclonal antibodies can be used to target molecules in the body, contributing to drug development.
- Evaluate the significance of alternative splicing in molecular biology and physiology.
KeywordsmRNA; RNA processing; alternative splicing; calcitonin; CGRP; exon; intron; central dogma; monoclonal antibody
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsClicker, Flipped
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Cell Biology | Genetics / Heredity | Molecular Biology |
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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.
- mRNA Processing
This video covers the basic steps in mRNA processing including addition of the 5’ methylated guanine cap, the poly-A tail, and intron splicing. Running time: 2:24 min. Virtual Cell Animation Collection, produced by the World Wide Web Instructional Committee at North Dakota State University, 2005.
- mRNA Splicing
This video covers the mechanism of RNA splicing, discussing the role of the spliceosome, characteristics of intron boundaries, and formation of the lariat. Running time: 2:55 min. Virtual Cell Animation Collection, produced by the World Wide Web Instructional Committee at North Dakota State University, 2005.
- RNA Splicing
This video reiterates the previous one, but also further defines introns and exons, and shows multiple introns being spliced from the same pre-mRNA. Running time: 1:37 min. Produced by the DNA Learning Center, 2012.
- Monoclonal Antibody Production HD Animation
This video describes the relationship between an antibody and antigen, and explains how monoclonal antibodies are produced. It sets the stage for understanding how ALD403, the drug used to treat migraines, blocks CGRP. Running time: 1:37 min.