A question of taste (post-16)

Determine your phenotype and genotype for a taste receptor that we share with our primate ancestors.

  • Credit: Royal Institution


  • Post-16


This workshop is designed for students over 15 years old and studying at A level or equivalent, It lasts for around 5 – 6 hours including a 30 – 40 minute break for lunch (not provided).

The maximum group size is 16. Actual group sizes depend on age and circumstance, for more info contact the team at ysc@ri.ac.uk.

In this genetics workshop, students will extract and test their own DNA using modern molecular biological techniques to compare their phenotype with their genotype.

The workshop, developed with the Wellcome Trust to mark Darwin's 200th birthday, demonstrates how we as a species have evolved to lose the ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), a chemical found in vegetables such as broccoli. The research has found that chimpanzees have also lost the ability to taste PTC too and, until recently, it was believed to have been an inherited trait from a common ancestor. However, we have since discovered that it has done so by convergent evolution due to the location of this mutation.

The students will perform a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction digests and gel electrophoresis in the analysis of their DNA.

Teacher feedback

I would like to thank you again for the excellent day that my A level Biology students and I had with you at the Ri on Friday. It gave us a chance to carry out this long and involved experiment and get excellent results so that they left with a clear idea of the process and a sense of achievement. I'm very grateful.

Barbara Butler - Camden School for Girls

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