By Sarah Cohen
You know you’ve got phage on the mind when you start texting your friend about “Acid Wash Genes.” After spending roughly two class periods discussing how to annotate the genes of our phage, Altwerkus, we were finally sent off to discuss them on our own.
The first day of annotation on our own was spent in small groups of four to five phage hunters. Everyone in my group seemed to know exactly what each piece of data meant and how to interpret it. Now, I’ve taken Calculus III so I know the feeling of being totally lost, and this felt very similar. After asking a few group mates, I began to understand the meaning of the information on my screen. My group seemed to fly through the genome annotation and I eventually caught onto the method of annotation.
The next class consisted of presentations from each group about their assigned genes. The first bunch of genes seemed to go by quickly, with very little dispute from the rest of the class. As it turns out, these particular genes are structural genes and are fairly consistent between phages. At about the third group’s genes, the function of the proteins shifted away from structural and they began to vary much more from the genes of the compared phages. This lead to some not-so-heated debates within the class about where the gene actually started, how long it should be, what the start codon was, whether or not it had coding potential, etc..
After seeing what was being debated, I finally understood what my group mates were looking for when annotating the genes we were assigned. After being so confused for several days about DNA, and genes, and jeans, and protein function, almost all of it seemed to clear up.
The next few weeks of annotation should be interesting and full of confusing data and arguments about the specifics of the gene, but in the end it will all make sense — I hope.