Biology professor discusses research, gene silencing

Cassandra Martinez, Arts & Entertainment editor

Genetics offer the secret behind what makes living organisms interesting.

Professor Catherine Reinke, assistant professor of biology at Linfield, explored with a team of students a gene that isn’t commonly talked about in high school science classes.

In her lecture, “From Observers to Participants: Building the scientific community through independent and course-based research in genetics,” she discussed her research and her study on genetics which have the ability to effect the way an organism looks.

Reinke worked with more than 14 Linfield undergraduates and made her research accessible for student involvement. Her genetics research consisted of model organisms, including plants, yeast and insects over the past 20 years.

Since Reinke’s research focused on genetics, she developed two questions, “What do individual genes do and how does the cell use its genes?”

She recalled her experiments on the pea plants, where she tried to mix up the genes of the pea plant which made the plant’s physical features look more similar to that of the mustard weed plant.

She explained that the reason this occurred was because of the mutant gene implanted in the plants. She inserted a reference to the “X-Men” movies because the characters had unique genes due to the altering of their DNA.

Reinke further explained that mutant genes have the ability to make certain genes active and deactivated.

DNA is the original human data which gets copied into RNA.

Reinke explained about micro RNA, which is what she based her research around, being able to input the mutant gene to turn off a different gene in an organism.

Her experiment used the common fly to test out the mutant gene in the fly’s eye. The mutant gene silenced the gene that made the eyes a perfect shape and turned them into deformed, uneven sized eyes. This is caused by the micro RNA binding sites, which makes the mutant GFP.

Reinke’s presentation was an eye opening experience for the Linfield community and was an opportunity for students in the biology department to participate in a remarkable experiment.