SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHC523506
Module Leader Ryan Kean
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • B (January start)

Summary of Content

This module aims to provide a thorough understanding of molecular biology as it applies to infectious agents. Students should gain an appreciation of the application of molecular microbiology to aspects of infectious agents including evasion of the host immune system and epidemiology. The role of genetic elements in the spread of antibiotic resistance, molecular mechanisms of genetic variation and the ability of microbes to sense the host environment will be discussed. Intracellular antiviral mechanisms in eukaryotic cells and methods by which viruses evade the immune system will be expanded upon . The application of viral and non-viral vectors to transfer and express genetic information will also be covered in addition to clinical applications of these technologies and the adverse events that can occur. Understanding of molecular mechanisms used by parasites to evade host defences and the potential for parasite vaccine development will be developed through tutorial sessions.


Lectures Regulation in the Bacterial Cell and Molecular Cytology (12) Packaging of the bacterial chromosome, together with the associated problems of DNA replication and gene expression. The role RNA degradation and processing in gene regulation, with reference to the influence of external factors on the stability of mRNA. The regulation of the puf operon in the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodobacter capsulatis , small non-coding or anti-sense RNAs as coordinators of adaptation processes in Escherichia coli . Regulation of gene expression in Borrelia in vector and host will also be discussed Biological Diversity at the Molecular Level (5) Specific examples demonstrating how biological diversity can be achieved through programmed DNA rearrangement and horizontal transfer of mobile genetic elements. The spread of antibiotic resistance in Gram-positive cells by conjugative transposons and the importance of the SXT element in emergence of multiple antibiotic resistance in Vibrio cholerae 0159. Molecular mechanisms of two-component regulators and quorum sensing molecules, antigenic variation in Campylobacter , Mu host range variation, clustered inversions in Neisseria gonorrhoeae , recombination in Bacteroides fragilis . Viral Gene Therapy (6) Students are introduced to the concept of Gene Therapy and how clinical conditions are treated using this technology. An in-depth understanding for selection of appropriate vectors to use for specific treatments and how to prepare these at the molecular level is addressed. In particular, viral vectors are the focus with comparisons made to non-viral vectors. The risks and ethics associated with gene therapy are also discussed in the context of current clinical trials. Molecular Virology and Pathogenesis (4) An overview of the interferon system and RNAi system. Comparison of these systems and an explanation of how these systems intervene in viral replication. Discussion of co-evolution of viral mechanisms to counter these antiviral mechanisms. Tutorials Tutorial sessions will introduce methodology for design and preparation of GT viral vectors for clinical use and testing parameters required for assessment of in vitro and in vivo efficacy. Students should gain an ability to analyse and interpret data. Feedback will be provided on assessments and students will be encouraged to participate in an open question session on lecture material. Understanding of molecular mechanisms used by parasites to evade host defences and the potential for parasite vaccine development will be developed through tutorial sessions and discussion of a specific parasite.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1. Define the principles underpinning important techniques in molecular biology2. Describe gene therapy applications and discuss the role of these techniques in laboratory research 3. Evaluate molecular biological approaches to fundamental research, analysis of chemotherapeutic targets and vaccine development4. Develop skills for further independent learning in the context of the molecular biology of infectious diseases.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

A wide range of teaching methods including lectures, review and revision sessions are employed. Podcasts and videos are utilised to demonstrate strategies and techniques described. The parasite vaccines topic is presented through a guided reading programme and students construct their own notes by accessing the literature and answering a series of specific questions. Data interpretation and analysis sessions are an integral part of the module and students will be encouraged to critically interpret data reported in scientific publications. , A methods exam is provided which utilises both lecture material and research publications to encourage the student to engage with the topic from a research perspective. For example, the student is required to design a research protocol to develop and prepare a vector for a gene therapy treatment specified in the exam paper. This requires an understanding of the subject and the ability to think critically about the most appropriate strategy they will use and why.

Indicative Reading

Reading material will be recommended by individual tutors and will include relevant recent scientific papers and reviews. However the following texts may be useful; -360b7 Dale and Park (2010). Molecular Genetics of Bacteria (5th edition). Wiley -360b7 The Bacterial Chromosome ed. Higgins. (2005) ASM Press b7 Molecular Biology: Principles of Genome Function (2010) Craig et al ., OUP -360b7 Craig N, Green R, Greider C et al (2014) Molecular Biology: Principles of Genome Function (2 nd edition) OUP

Transferrable Skills

Each student should develop a series of generic skills. These include 1. The ability to communicate information in a logical and coherent fashion. 2. The development of the ability to retrieve information using the library and electronic resources. 3. The ability to study independently and evaluate literature published in areas related to the lecture material 4. To critically evaluate scientific processes and experimental design

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Tutorials (FT) 8.00
Assessment (FT) 10.00
Independent Learning (FT) 155.00
Lectures (FT) 27.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 1.00 20.00 n/a Short answer written tests will evaluate understanding of lecture material
Coursework 2 1.00 10.00 n/a Methods Test, application of current methodology to experimental design
Exam (Exams Office) 3.00 70.00 35% Unseen, written examination to test learning 3/6 essay questions