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Department of Genetics


Part II Genetics consists of 4 modules, which everyone studies. We want our 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 ~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 : Genomes, Chromosomes & the Cell Cycle

Module 1 ID

This module will focus on how genomes are organised. This will include consideration of prokaryotic genomes and the “floating genome” of bacterial species (comprised of mobile elements including plasmids, transposable elements, integrons and conjugative transposons), as well as eukaryotic chromosomes and their functional elements. We will also examine eukaryotic control mechanisms (centred on key cell cycle protein kinases, protein phosphatases, and checkpoints) that promote correct cell cycle progression and the accurate segregation of genes and chromosomes into daughter cells at cell division. In addition, the special case of cells dividing asymmetrically and the molecular pathways accounting for spatial and temporal coupling will be examined.

Module 2 : Human Genetics, Genomics and Systems Biology
Module 4 ID

This module will focus on human genetics, the genetic basis of human disease and the role of genomics in tackling it. Although we can’t experimentally modify the germline of humans in the same way as with model organisms, there is a long history of human genetics based both on the study of naturally occurring genetic variation, and on experiments in cells. Human genetics has always needed to exploit technology to obtain answers to the problems it poses. We will examine the sequencing technologies that underpin our ability to analyse genomes, the human genome and its organisation, and the role of repetitive DNA in the control of gene expression. We will then consider the genetic approaches aimed at characterising other aspects of human variation, including genome-wide association studies. The module will also explore mitochondrial genetics, the role of imprinting in mammalian genetics and the application of gene therapy. Finally, we will introduce the genomics approaches that underpin the functional analysis of genomes, including technologies for measuring gene expression, analysing transcription factor activity and chromatin states, as well as an introduction to modern proteomics.

Module 3 : Developmental Genetics
Module 3 ID

This module will cover the field of developmental genetics with an emphasis on how genetics is used to uncover cellular and molecular mechanisms of development in a wide variety of organisms, including examples from Drosophila, C.elegans, zebrafish and the mouse.  Topics will include the establishment of body axes and cell fate determination, roles of small RNAs in development, the development of the germ line, properties of stem cells and organoids, advanced genetic tools to study development in mouse and human, signalling mechanisms, transcription regulation, and gene regulatory networks in development.

Module 4 : Evolutionary Genetics & Adaptation
Module 5 ID

Modern 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 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 lectures cover general principals in evolutionary genetics, and key topics such as speciation and the evolution of gene expression. The module will also examine the evolution of genomes, covering topics including gene expression and transposable elements. The course will also consider the genetics of adaptation, the evolution of sex and how experimental evolution can be used to understand the evolution and function of genomes.

page updated 28/02/2020