Visualize it! Using Molecular Models to Predict the Effects of Mutations on Protein Function

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Presenters:  Sandra Porter, PhD, Digital World Biology, Bio-Link National Center, Austin Community College, Shoreline Community College and Todd Smith, PhD, Digital World Biology

The wide application of DNA sequencing has made it possible to identify numerous missense mutations. Unfortunately, the act of translating the potential impact of these mutations to practical advice requires either an in-depth understanding of biochemistry and molecular interactions or access to a knowledgebase containing this kind of information. If we can teach students how to predict the effects of mutations, we could have students participate in annotating molecular structures and build that knowledgebase for clinicians, patients, and the biotech community. To achieve the goal of developing students’ skills to the point where they can make informed and realistic predictions about the effect of a mutation on the function of a protein, they need to understand how proteins work at a molecular level. This level of understanding requires students to know their amino acids and functional groups. In this session, we will discuss what it takes to get students to this level of understanding, introduce ClinVar–a database of genetic variation, and play games designed to help students learn about amino acids and chemical bonds and discuss the utility of games as a tool for learning.

The Amino Acid cards are available at the Digital World Biology shop on Etsy

YouTube videos illustrating ways to model mutations are at Digital World Biology YouTube channel

The structure collections used in this talk can be found at