Students in Katrina St. John’s biology class are collecting DNA from their own dogs (or a friend’s or teacher’s dog) to see which variants of the RSP02 gene the dog carries.
The RSPo2 gene controls the hair length cycle in most mammals. Dogs that have the wild type gene have short fur, while those that have the “mt” variant produce more RSPo2 protein and have longer fur above their eyes and on their snout (facial furnishings).
This is a great gene to study because students can see the phenotypic expression (what the dog looks like) as well as the genotype (actual DNA run on electrophoresis). Students are practicing lab skills and using equipment that is currently used in biotech laboratories across the globe. They use the same process that direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies such as 23andMe or Ancestry.com use for humans. This work is made possible through collaboration with Debbie Landry, executive director of iExplore.