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​​​DNA the Easy Way (And “Gram Stain” Without the Mess)

This demonstration can be used to help students visualize DNA by lysing (breaking open) bacterial cells on a slide and “stringing up” the DNA with a toothpick in less than one minute. It is most useful for grades 7-12. It requires minimal materials (bacterial cultures, glass microscope slides, 3% (w/v) potassium hydroxide (KOH), and wooden toothpicks). This technique can also be used to study bacteria because only Gram-negative bacteria lyse in 3% KOH; Gram-positive bacteria do not. The technique is equivalent to the Gram-stain reaction, but does not require a microscope or potentially messy stains.

Schumann, G.L. and C.A. Jasalavich. 2001. DNA the Easy Way.
The Plant Health Instructor. DOI: 10.1094/PHI-K-2001-0222-01

Gail Schumann
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Claudia A. Jasalavich
Nashua, NH