SHE Level 5
SCQF Credit Points 15.00
ECTS Credit Points 7.50
Module Code MMC525252
Module Leader Ryan Kean
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • B (January start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Good Honours degree in a relevant discipline .

Summary of Content

This module is designed to build on knowledge of microbial genetics and virology obtained at BSc degree level. Students should gain an understanding of gene expression, gene regulation, and gene transfer processes in bacteria; the role of mobile genetic elements in the spread of antibiotic resistance; molecular mechanisms of antigenic variation; and the ability of microbes to sense the host environment. Regulation of replication and gene expression in RNA viruses will be surveyed as well as intracellular antiviral mechanisms in eukaryotic cells. The application of viral and non-viral vectors to transfer and express genetic information is also covered in addition to clinical applications of these technologies and the adverse events that can occur. In addition, students will learn the interactions between TSEs at the cellular level . Students should gain an ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate data generated by experiment.


Regulation in the Bacterial Cell and Molecular Cytology (10) 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) Risks and ethics associated with gene therapy. Viral vectors and delivery systems. Non-viral gene delivery. Specific clinical application of gene therapy. An introduction to TSEs and the properties of the infectious agent, epidemiology and clinical disease, transmission mechanisms and pathogenesis in vivo . The interactions of prions with intracellular proteins and current approaches to treat TSE diseases. 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. Laboratory Classes (5) Laboratory classes closely parallel the lectures on microbial genetics and give the students the opportunity to carry out some traditional genetics experiments. The emphasis is on data presentation and data handling. Students carry out analysis of suppressor mutants created during the laboratory sessions and each set of results generated is unique. Tutorials (6) Tutorials will be designed to provide revision for assessments and to supplement the laboratory classes. A student centred learning package will introduce the concept of suppressor mutations and support the theory behind the laboratory sessions.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module the student should be able to:1. Describe the principal mechanisms of microbial genomics.2. Evaluate microbial genomic mechanisms related to microbial pathogenicity. 3. Discuss the molecular processes involved in global control mechanisms.4. Discuss microbial control strategies and the problems encountered.5. Review regulation of RNA viral replication and antiviral mechanisms.6. Analyse, evaluate and assess data generated by experiment.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

Students will be taught by formal lectures, tutorial sessions, review of papers and revision sessions. Laboratory based sessions will use traditional bacterial genetics techniques to encourage students to appreciate how alterations at the molecular level give rise to phenotypic change. Data interpretation sessions will provide exercises and practice in handling molecular data and develop the student's ability to critically interpret data in scientific publications.

Indicative Reading

Reading material will be recommended by individual tutors. This will include relevant recent scientific papers and reviews. However the following texts may be useful Dale and Park (2010). Molecular Genetics of Bacteria (5th edition). Wiley The Bacterial Chromosome ed. Higgins. (2005) ASM Press Molecular Biology: Principles of Genome Function (2010) Craig et al ., OUP Clinical Virology; Richman, Whitley and Hayden, (2009) 3rd Edition, ASM press

Transferrable Skills

1. Communicate information in a logical and coherent fashion. 2. Develop the ability to retrieve information using the library and electronic resources. 3. Advanced data interpretation and analysis. 4. Safe laboratory practice

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Assessment (FT) 10.00
Independent Learning (FT) 94.00
Practicals (FT) 15.00
Lectures (FT) 25.00
Tutorials (FT) 6.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Coursework 1 n/a 25.00 45% Lab Report
Coursework 2 n/a 25.00 45% Data Interpretation
Exam (Exams Office) 3.00 50.00 45% Exam - Unseen written exam to test learning (4 out of 6 essay questions)