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24 June, 2002


DNA Libraries

Today we finished two long days of computer work. Over the past several weeks, Dr. Valerie Bennett has been isolating DNA and proteins and from Cucujus larvae. All of the samples have been broken down into their individual nucleotide and amino acid sequences. These sequences must then be compared to known sequences of proteins in an attempt to identify anti-freeze proteins within the Cucujus samples.

This process requires several steps. The first step is to identify the appropriate sequences of nucleotides or amino acids from a large sample of genetic and protein materials. This is done by inserting a number of markers of known sequences into the samples. Researchers can then look for the known markers and use them to separate the appropriate sequences. The second step is to compare the identified sequence to sequences of similar organisms. Finally, the sequence is loaded into a national database of identified sequences available from the National Institutes of Health. The website itself is fascinating. The amount of information available to anyone who desires to look is staggering. For anyone who wishes to take a look, the address is www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Deciding to do the searches on Friday was a stroke of genius from Val. By starting on Friday, we got the weekend as a break before we tackled the databases again today. Since my family met me in Indianapolis for the weekend, I got to turn my mind around completely and enjoy a short weekend family vacation.

At the end of all of our searches, we were able to identify a number of different proteins, but were not rewarded with any anti-freeze proteins. It is the nature of real science that we are often looking for a proverbial needle in a haystack. It is a tribute to the persistence and the dedication of the people who do this work that we do in fact find some answers.

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