Feast or Famine seminar 2008

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Feast or Famine :Exploring the impact of environment on gene expression and evolution

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The Seminar Paper

  • Download the seminar paper here
  • Download the seminar questions here
  • If you would like to ask a question about the seminar paper please click here.  Questions will be answered at the seminar.

Links to your school programmes

NCEA Level 3 Achievement Standards linking to this seminar:

  • AS 90715 Biology 3.3 Describe the role of DNA in relation to gene expression
  • AS 90717  Biology 3.5  Describe processes and patterns in evolution

Key Concepts from Level 3 Biology that link to this seminar:

Below are selected objectives from the Y13 biology programme that link tothis seminar.
You should review these concepts before the seminar.
Gene Expression / Genetics:

  • Describe DNA in terms of structure and function
  • Describe the process of DNA replication and the role that enzymes have in this process
  • Describe the process of protein synthesis and the role of DNA and enzymes in the production of proteins
  • Describe the role of DNA in gene expression and the determination of phenotype
  • Describe the control of gene expression at the transcriptional level in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
  • Describe the role of metabolic pathways in the control of gene expression
  • Explain the role of gene-gene interactions (epistasis, collaboration and polygenes) in determination of phenotype.


  • Explain the role of natural selection in evolution
  • Explain the potential effect of environment on expression of genes (although this is not a specific objective from the Y13 programme, understanding of this concept will allow you to understand metabolic pathways and control of gene expression).


Challenge Questions

  1. In 1859, Darwin and Wallace jointly presented their theory of evolution of species based around the concept of natural selection. Discuss the role of environment in this theory.

  2. It is well known that diet and lifestyle impact on health. Scientists have shown that in addition to environment during adulthood impacting on likelihood of disease, the environment that we are exposed to in the womb can alter our metabolic pathways and increase our likelihood of suffering from a number of adult diseases. Scientists are currently exploring why this happens and predict that it may be a result of epigenetic modifications in the relevant genes.
    Using the information presented in the seminar paper and your knowledge of gene expression, explain what is meant by epigenetic modification and why these modifications could potentially alter the phenotype that is expressed.

  3. In 2006 evidence was presented by scientists that in animal models some epigenetic modifications resulting from changes in diet can be shown to be passed on to the next generation. Discuss the impact of understanding of epigenetic inheritance on traditional models of evolution.

Discuss this

You are welcome to discuss how you would answer these questions on the discussion page.

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