CHARLOTTE – Charlotte Catholic High School students got a bad taste in their mouth in the name of science.
Twelve AP biology students traveled to Clemson University to conduct a daylong study of the genetics of bitter taste in order to use advanced laboratory equipment.
The students were tasked with studying the PTC gene, which is an inherited trait that determines whether or not people taste phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, as extremely bitter, slightly bitter or not at all.
Geneticists discovered almost 15 years ago the ability to taste PTC is conveyed by a single gene that codes for a taste receptor on the tongue.
Students began their study with a simple test in which they tasted paper containing PTC. Most of the students tasted the PTC as slightly bitter.
Students took samples of their own DNA, amplified a small segment of each sample, as well as used DNA gel electrophoresis to see whether they inherited a dominant gene, a recessive gene or a combination of the two genes from their parents.
“It was a terrific learning experience,” said instructor Gwenn Freeman. “We enjoyed fantastic instruction from the lab instructor at Clemson, and even had time to enjoy lunch at a new cafeteria and take a brief stroll across campus.”