Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 963–973

Broadening Horizons and Teaching Basic Biology Through Cell-Free Synthesis of Green Fluorescent Protein in a High School Laboratory Course


DOI: 10.1007/s10956-013-9442-z

Cite this article as:
Albayrak, C., Jones, K.C. & Swartz, J.R. J Sci Educ Technol (2013) 22: 963. doi:10.1007/s10956-013-9442-z


Cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) has emerged as a practical method for producing a broad variety of proteins. In addition, the direct accessibility to the reaction environment makes CFPS particularly suitable as a learning vehicle for fundamental biological concepts. Here, we describe its implementation as a teaching tool for a high school laboratory course. Ninety students in a biotechnology class used CFPS to study the effects of the concentrations of amino acids, cell extract, DNA, and the energy source on accumulation of active super-folder green fluorescent protein. Students estimated product concentrations simply by comparing solution colors to a printed green color gradient. This simple and inexpensive method allows for immediate measurements, and 26 of the 30 groups observed measurable product concentrations within 60 min. These student-generated data were then discussed to illustrate concepts of data analysis such as outliers and standard deviation. We also combined the laboratory experience with a visit to a university campus that included a laboratory tour and a college-style lecture. Our overall objective was to excite the students about the scientific enterprise and to instill a sense of personal relevance and attainability so that these students could realistically consider technical careers.


High schoolCell-free protein synthesis (CFPS)PANOx SPEscherichia colisfGFPGreen fluorescent proteinTranscription–translation

Supplementary material

10956_2013_9442_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 kb)
10956_2013_9442_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (61 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 61 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cem Albayrak
    • 1
    • 5
  • K. C. Jones
    • 2
    • 4
  • James R. Swartz
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Sequoia High SchoolRedwood CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of BioengineeringStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  4. 4.Abraham Lincoln High SchoolSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE)ETH ZurichBaselSwitzerland