Expression Cloning *

Areas of Science Biotechnology
Time Required Average (6-10 days)
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. Use sterile technique. Read the Microorganisms Safety Guide before starting any experiments.
*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.


What is expression cloning and how is it used in the biotechnology industry? How are plasmids constructed for use in a bacterial expression system? You can investigate these questions and more using bacterial expression kits meant for high school classes. You will need a laboratory space equipped to grow bacteria and carry out simple molecular biology. A kit with plasmids and bacterial cells to transform are also needed. Here are two possibilities:

  • BioBuilder What a Colorful World Kit from Carolina: this kit lets you explore how different pigments can be produced by bacteria. With two different strains of E. coli you can explore some of the choices scientists have to make when choosing where and how to express the DNA they engineer and the repercussions of those choices.
  • Glow-in-the-Dark Transformation Kit from Carolina: this kit has supplies needed to make bacteria express green fluorescent protein (GFP), as shown in Figure 1. This kit is a bit simpler to use and has fewer combinations to explore.

Picture of plate with GFP bacteria.
Figure 1. Using biotechnology techniques like expression cloning, bacteria can be engineered to express many different proteins like the green florescent protein, GFP, which make these bacteria glow green. (Photo courtesy of Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.)

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Last edit date: 2018-10-17

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