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Discussion Questions

This page contains resource questions and discussion points designed to further conversation on the subject of gene expression.

A Review of Protein Synthesis


1. Protein synthesis is a two-stage process involving transcription and translation. Explain what happens in each stage of protein synthesis.


2. Scientists talk about coding and non‐coding DNA. What do these terms mean?


3. What does the term gene expression mean?


4. Describe the relationship between DNA, RNA, and proteins and explain how mutations can impact on phenotype.


5. Describe a situation where the effect of environment on phenotype can be observed and potentially reversed if the environment changes.


6. Describe a situation where the effect of environment on phenotype can be observed and cannot be reversed if the environment changes.


Important Vocabulary: Test Yourself

Adaptation Adolescence Allele
Body mass index Chromosome Darwin
Developmental plasticity DNA Dominant
Embryo Epidemiology Epigenetics
Epigenome Epistasis Fetus
Gene Gene expression Gene switch
Genotype Histone proteins Lamarck
Menarche Methyl group Methylation
Natural selection Phenotype Placenta
Proteins Puberty Recessive
RNA Transcription Translation

Related Topic: Bisphenol A

(Links to Curriculum Level Eight and Achievement Standard: AS91602 3.2: Integrate Biological Knowledge to Develop an Informed Response to a Socio-Scientific Issue)


Epigenetics is also linked to a current international issue that is becoming more widely known in New Zealand. Bisphenol A, a chemical found in many plastics including baby bottles, fillings that dentists use, linings for tin cans and much more has been shown to be linked with premature puberty and breast cancer. In Canada, the use of plastics containing Bisphenol A in baby bottles has been banned. Internationally, there is much debate over this issue. 


The New Zealand Food Safety authority is monitoring the situation. Professor Ian Shaw, a toxicologist from Canterbury University and Principal Investigator for the National Research Centre for Growth and Development is an expert in this field. He is also a consultant to the NZ Food Safety authority.  


This is a contemporary biological issue for which different groups in society hold differing viewpoints. You may wish to consider this issue for Biology 3.2. 


News Articles Related to This Topic

Watch Professor Ian Shaw talking about this issue for TEDx (November, 2010)


Breast Cancer Link to Plastic (Sunday Star Times, 31 January, 2009)


Dangers Lurking in Everyday Plastic (Taranaki Daily News, 10 July, 2009)


Greens Say NZ Should Ban Plastic Baby Bottles (Stuff, 31 Jan, 2009)