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J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2016 May 4;17(2):261-8. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v17i2.981. eCollection 2016 May.

Battle of the Bacteria: Characterizing the Evolutionary Advantage of Stationary Phase Growth.

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Department of Biology, California State University, Dominguez Hills, CA 90747.
Department of Genetics, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06510.
Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, CA 92093.
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697.


Providing students with authentic research opportunities has been shown to enhance learning and increase retention in STEM majors. Accordingly, we have developed a novel microbiology lab module, which focuses on the molecular mechanisms of evolution in E. coli, by examining the growth advantage in stationary phase (GASP) phenotype. The GASP phenotype is demonstrated by growing cells into long-term stationary phase (LTSP) and then competing them against un-aged cells in a fresh culture. This module includes learning goals related to strengthening practical laboratory skills and improving student understanding of evolution. In addition, the students generate novel data regarding the effects of different environmental stresses on GASP and the relationship between evolution, genotypic change, mutation frequency, and cell stress. Pairs of students are provided with the experimental background, select a specific aspect of the growth medium to modify, and generate a hypothesis regarding how this alteration will impact the GASP phenotype. From this module, we have demonstrated that students are able to achieve the established learning goals and have produced data that has furthered our understanding of the GASP phenotype. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.

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