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eteRNA RNA folding game

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Proper Folding Achieves Lowest Energy Conformation

My general biology students were asked yesterday to check out eteRNA, an interesting online game designed around problems of RNA folding. RNA is a fascinating molecule for a number of reasons.

  • What we might think of immediately, mRNA as an information carrying molecule, is just one of its many jobs.
  • In addition to this, RNA serves as a delivery molecule in the form of tRNA. These molecules are capable of both ‘reading’ the mRNA message, through codon:anti-codon interactions, and they also recruit and deliver Amino Acids that correspond to the codon in question. 
  • RNA also functions as ribozymes, enzymes comprised entirely, or in part, of RNA. An example of this is the ribosome that is mostly rRNA with only a small protein contribution.

EteRNA explores the plasticity of RNA function by demonstrating the capacity of this molecule to fold into a variety of shapes. As I frequently remind my class, FORM DICTATES FUNCTION. This is true of all things in biology (and perhaps beyond). When a molecule is formed correctly, it carries out its function appropriately. When that form is altered due to mutation, misfiling or other denaturing processes, the function is also altered. This may be for better or worse, but mostly for worse.  Depending on this function, the ‘fitness’ of the cell for survival / reproduction may be affected leading to selection for or against this cell.

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Eterna

I set up a group titled: FortScott_Treml that I invite my students (or anyone else) to join. For my students, anyone who completes the the tutorials will receive 5 extra credit points. Anyone who earns a puzzle master badge will earn another 5.

 
 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Wired Article about EteRNA

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Citizen Scientists

I forgot… I meant to post a link to an article written in Wired magazine about the EteRNA RNA folding game. It’s an interesting look into how crowdsourcing is beginning to make inroads into science and how clever gamification turns readers into players and puts them to work on deciphering some of the largest data-heavy / problem-solving questions in science. Find that article here, or you can also find the actual magazine at FSCC in the hallway magazine shelf.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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EteRNA

I meant to mention in class that I wanted anyone who is interested to check out EteRNA online over the holiday. We are going to be talking about DNA, RNA and Proteins again in chapter 25 and EteRNA is an interesting game that gives players a look into the world of RNA folding. I will mention this again in class this week, but if anyone wants to check it out, I will award a ’10’ on the chapter 25 quiz to the player with the highest score by that time.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Cool site about RNA folding

A friend of mine just made me aware of this site that makes RNA folding into a game. The educational aspect focuses on teaching students/ players that RNA is not just a simple, linear molecule (like people think of mRNA most of the time) that carries information from DNA about making proteins. RNA is also a very dynamic molecule that has a number of functions not directly related to carrying information about building proteins. In fact, these molecules are so multifunctional, there is a pretty believable theory out there that the first life on this planet was wholly RNA-based.

This game illuminates just why the RNA-first theory makes so much sense: Because RNA can actually ‘do things’. It can fold on itself and form structures very similar to proteins and these structures can have functions very much as proteins do. In fact, many of us think about RNA as functional all the time. Ribosomes are perfect examples of this: RNA that acts as an enzyme.

I can’t wait to show this to my students in the Fall and see if it helps them get a better grasp on DNA/RNA base-pairing as well as the idea that folding of molecules dictates functions.

 

here’s the link, I hope you enjoy:

 

http://eterna.cmu.edu/eterna_page.php?sort=largest&page=groups&pageindex=0

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Education, Uncategorized

 

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