Transforming Bacteria to Make Colored Pigments *

Areas of Science Biotechnology
Time Required Long (2-4 weeks)
Prerequisites A basic understanding of molecular biology and access to a laboratory where bacteria can be grown are required for this project.
Material Availability The kit required for this project can only be purchased through a school or educational business.
Cost High ($100 - $150)
Safety Adult supervision is required in the laboratory facility.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Can bacteria be altered to produce life-saving insulin for diabetics? Or change color to indicate the presence of a harmful toxin? Yes, it can! Using biotechnology, scientists work daily on problems like these. It starts with selecting a gene you want bacteria to produce and creating a sequence of DNA that has that gene and a promoter that will help express it at the right time and at the right levels. The next hurdle is actually getting this engineered DNA into the bacteria and functional. One way of doing that is a method called bacterial transformation. In bacterial transformation, bacteria are treated in a manner which induces some of them to take up a plasmid of DNA and express it. It doesn't work for every bacterial cell though.

Just how is bacterial transformation done? How efficient is it? Does the efficiency change if you use different strains of bacteria? If the bacteria do take up the engineered DNA, is the level of expression always the same? You explore these questions as well as many others about bacterial transformation and the expression of engineered DNA using the BioBuilder What a Colorful World Kit from our partners at Carolina Biological.

The kit contains materials to do several transformations of two different strains of E. coli. The plasmids included have a pigment inducing gene under the regulation of different promoters. With the kit and access to a laboratory with bacteria growing equipment like incubators and shakers, you'll be ready to explore some interesting and real-world biotechnology.

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Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies

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Slutz, Sandra. "Transforming Bacteria to Make Colored Pigments." Science Buddies, 17 Oct. 2018, Accessed 17 Nov. 2019.

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Slutz, S. (2018, October 17). Transforming Bacteria to Make Colored Pigments. Retrieved from

Last edit date: 2018-10-17

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