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Name: Carolyn McPherson
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Question:
A student scientist is looking for a method to induce lactose intolerance in E. coli bacteria. Is there a suggestion for a method?
Thanks



Replies:
The prevailing wisdom among geneticists is that we cannot really "induce" lactose intolerance so much a we can "select" or "screen" for mutant bacteria that have become lactose intolerant. The idea is that mutations in particular genes do not occur as a response to some evolutionary or selective pressure; rather, mutations just happen randomly, and those that confer a growth advantage (in a particular situation) will help the bacterium grow faster than its siblings. In a previous session, I suggested one way to identify those bacteria; to induce mutations, any of several mutation-causing agents might be tried, including chemicals and UV light. In fact, one worthwhile experiment might be to see how various exposure to UV light might yield increasing numbers of lactose-intolerant mutants. For more details or discussion, you might write me directly (S. Triezenberg).



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