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In nature, some species of bacteria can capture free DNA from the surrounding environment through a process called transformation. The newly acquired genetic information is both stable and heritable. In the laboratory, scientists transform bacteria with DNA engineered to re-program the cells, creating living factories capable of producing large amounts of important proteins, antibiotics, or biopharmaceuticals.


Frederick Griffith first discovered transformation in 1928 when he observed that living cultures of a normally non-pathogenic strain of Streptococcus pneumonia were able to kill mice, but only after being mixed with a heat-killed pathogenic strain. Because the non-pathogenic strain had been “transformed” into a pathogenic strain, he named this transfer of virulence “transformation.” In 1944, Oswald Avery and his colleagues purified DNA, RNA and protein from a virulent strain of S. pneumonia to determine which was responsible for transformation. Each component was mixed each with a non-pathogenic strain of bacteria. Only those recipient cells exposed to DNA became pathogenic. These transformation experiments not only revealed how this virulence is transferred but also led to the recognition of DNA as the genetic material.

Edvotek at Home

"Edvotek at Home" is a set of resources to teach the basics of Edvotek’s labs through worksheets and presentations. While we believe in the importance of hands-on learning, these free online learning tools are ideal if you can not perform the hands-on experiments in class. Each set includes a student sheet, an instructor’s guide, and an accompanying powerpoint presentation and results sheet. This resource is provided in a downloadable zipped folder below.

Transformation: Exploring Biotechnology With GFP - Transformation is when bacteria acquire exogenous DNA from the environment. In the laboratory, scientists can harness this technique to turn bacteria into protein production machines. This resource is specific for the EdvoKit 303: Exploring Technology with GFP, but it’s also adaptable for any transformation exercise you’d like your students to explore. Simply change plasmid to create a multitude of possible lessons. If you would like your students to focus on transformation, and not the accompanying extraction and purification of GFP, use only the first half of the student guide.

Edvotek Live Stream Demonstrations

Edvotek® YouTube Live Stream - Harnessing the Beauty of Bacteria - At the intersection of art, science, and technology is Bio-Art, the creation of works of art using living matter. One common way to create Bio-Art uses bacteria transformed with DNA codes for brightly-colored proteins. Watch Dr. Danielle Snowflack as she discusses the ways to create our "Bio-Paints" using bacterial transformation and culture techniques. Ways to exhibit your Bio-Art will be discussed!

Edvotek® YouTube Live Stream - Transformation: Tips & Tricks for AP® Biology Exploration 8 - Watch as Dr. Danielle Snowflack explores the biological process of bacterial transformation using E. coli and plasmid DNA, discusses our NEW and IMPROVED transformation protocol, and shares some tips and tricks for success. An optional extension uses the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to analyze your transformation, amping up your biotech lesson.

Additional Resources for EDVO-Kit #303

These resources are complementary to the teaching of EDVO-Kit #303 Exploring Biotechnology with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP).


These short courses couple theory with active experimentation to help you update your skills and knowledge in various areas of biotechnology.

Exploring STEAM with Transformation - Transforming bacteria with plasmids that express brightly colored or fluorescent proteins is an unforgettable way to teach the central dogma of molecular biology. Why not take it a step further and see the art your students can create using their transformed bacteria? We’ll review tips and tricks to maximize classroom success and also ask you to dust off your painting skills!