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Module outlines for Pt II Genetics

Part II Genetics consists of 5 modules, which everyone studies. We want eour students to leave with a broad view of genetics, and therefore we do not operate an options system. The modules aim to cover the range of genetics, from cellular to organism level, and will show how classical genetics, together with the latest developments in molecular genetics, are being applied to the problems of how genes in different species are organised, expressed and interact to give the final phenotype.

Each module consists of 22-24 hours of lectures. In addition there are one or two seminars or discussion sessions linked with each module, together with data handling and journal criticism sessions. These provide training in problem solving, the evaluation of scientific papers, and offer a chance to explore some of the social and ethical aspects of genetics. Supervisions on the lecture material are provided by the lecturers (most of whom are based in the Genetics Department).

Module 1 : The Cell Cycle and Cancer

Module 1 IDThis module will focus on the mechanisms promoting the accurate segregation of genes and chromosomes into daughter cells at cell division and what happens when this goes wrong.  We will also consider the special case of cells dividing asymmetrically and the mechanisms accounting for spatial and temporal coupling. We will explore the underlying eukaryotic cell cycle controls centred on cyclin-dependent kinases, protein phosphatases, ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis and checkpoints. This will be followed by a review of the key molecular themes linking cell cycle disruption and oncogenesis.

Module 2 : Plant and Microbial Genetics

Module 2 IDParadoxically, while bacteria species show extraordinary stability they also respond to evolutionary challenges with dizzying rapidity. Their expertise in evolution is due to the “floating genome” comprised of mobile elements including plasmids, transposable elements, integrons and conjugative transposons. The concerted action of these elements (with the help of international air travel) means that bacterial genes cross species and geographical boundaries with ease. We will explore the mechanisms of movement of these elements and their contributions to evolution, asking whether they really deserve to be considered as independent parasitic entities, rather than as integral parts of the bacterial genome. The course will also provide an introduction to microbial pathogenesis. Topics will include a description of approaches used to identify virulence factors, discussion of bacterial genome dynamics (including horizontal gene transfer and the evolution of pathogenic mechanisms) and classification of the virulence factors of pathogenic bacteria with appropriate examples of factors required for entry and adherence, invasion of host cells, establishment and dissemination.  The module will then move on to the genetics of higher plants including conventional, molecular and developmental plant genetics, illustrating the impact of transgenesis and genomics on pure and applied aspects of plant biology.

Module 3 : Developmental Genetics

Module 3 IDThis module will cover the field of Developmental Genetics with an emphasis on how genetics is used to uncover cellular and molecular mechanisms of development.  The determination of early cell fates in different animal model organisms will illustrate mechanistic similarities and differences and the genetic technologies used for addressing biological questions.  The properties and uses of stem cells and other cultured cells will also be presented.  Topics will include the establishment of body axes and early cell fates in development, roles of small RNAs in development, early mouse development, organ development and maintenance, properties of embryonic and adult stem cells, advanced genetic tools to study development in mouse and human, signalling mechanisms and their functions in diverse biological events, transcription regulation in cell fate determination, and gene networks in development.

Module 4 : Human Genetics, Genomics and Systems Biology

Module 4 IDHumans are a problem for the geneticist, because for all sorts of good reasons, we don't do experiments on ourselves, but also because the variation available for study is limited to that occurring naturally in the population.  Human genetics has always needed to exploit technology to obtain answers to the problems it poses. In this module we will explore how the information from the human genome project has improved both our understanding of the organisation of the human genome and of the genetic causes of human phenotypes. DNA microarrays, proteomics and other methods for analysing gene expression and function at the whole-genome scale provide new ways to explore the causes and treatment of disease.  A major goal of Systems Biology is to describe biological networks and processes in the form of quantitative models, and the course will cover how progress with model organisms are paving the way for such system wide approaches to human biology.

Module 5 : Evolutionary Genetics

Module 5 IDModern evolutionary theory has its roots in the union of Mendelian genetics with Darwin’s theory of evolution, two of the great unifying themes of biology. This course will consider the process of evolution, exploring the central topics of natural selection, adaptation and genetic drift, and combining a variety of empirical and theoretical approaches. We will introduce evolutionary genetics, explaining how signatures in genome sequences allow us to infer the past action of natural selection, and to reconstruct the evolutionary histories of living things, from infectious viruses to extinct mammals. The first lectures cover general principals in evolutionary genetics, and key topics such as speciation and the evolution of gene expression. These will be a series of lectures on the evolutionary genetics of humans, exploring our species’ origins, our spread around the globe, and examples of adaptive and non-adaptive changes in our genes. The course will also consider the evolution of sex and how experimental evolution can be used to understand the evolution and function of genomes and look at the exceptionally rapid evolution of viruses, which can sometimes adapt to their host in the course of a single infection.

Page updated 9 Jan 2018