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The American Biology Teacher


First reported in the early 1930s, variation in the ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) has since become one of the most widely studied of all human genetic traits. Guo and Reed (2001) provide an excellent review of work on this polymorphism prior to the identification and sequencing of the PTC gene by Kim et al. (2003), and Wooding (2006) provides a stimulating historical review of the role various scientists have played in the study of PTC taste sensitivity and the importance of these studies in relation to natural selection. Identification of the PTC gene and a number of subsequent publications (Wooding et al., 2004; Kim et al., 2005; Wooding et al., 2006) have provided the basis for a new, integrative laboratory investigation of PTC taste sensitivity. This genetics laboratory culminates in the use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction endonuclease digestion to determine the PTC genotype of each student. But “getting there is half the fun” and, in this case, “getting there” requires students to use not only their knowledge of molecular techniques in genetics but also their knowledge of Mendelian genetics, population genetics, probability, and pedigree analysis. The other “half the fun” in this case is that in determining their PTC phenotypes and genotypes, students are learning something about themselves.






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