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Department of Genetics


Suggested reading before you begin Part II Genetics

We do not have a formal reading list for incoming Part IIs. A lot of reading material is recommended by the various lecturers during the course, but most of this will be primary research papers and up-to-date reviews, rather than textbooks. Attempting to tackle this material before the lectures start would probably not be very useful (and quite possibly, off-putting!).


Revision/Background IA and IB course content on Moodle

During the Part II course, lecturers will regularly use basic genetics terminology and will often refer to techniques used to study molecular, cellular and developmental biology. In general, lecturers will not have time to go through these areas in detail during their lectures and supervisions but will assume that you are familiar with this material from your IA and IB courses. We strongly recommend that if you are a NatSci you refresh  memory of the information introduced to you in the NSTIA Biology of Cells and IB Cell and Developmental Biology courses, since in many cases this information will be built upon at Part II. If you are a pre-clinical medic or vet we recommend that you re-read the genetic lectures delivered in the IA MIMS course (by Profs Murchison & Ferguson-Smith) and, for medics, those given by Dr Aylwyn Scally in the IB HR course.

If you are a NatSci who did not take CDB, or a preclinical medic or vet, the Department will arrange for you to be given access to the relevant NST Moodle sites.

You will find particularly useful:

Part IA Cells:

IA Biology of Cells is a little reminiscent of IA MIMS, introducing many aspects of molecular and cellular biology and genetics:

- Dr David Summers :  Hunting the Gene lectures, cover basic genetics.

- Prof Steve Russell : The Genetic Revolution. The handout also includes a Glossary of Terms that you may find useful over the course of the year.

- Dr Christina Pina : Cell Proliferation and the Cell Cycle.


IA Evolution & Biology:

All incoming students are given access to the NST IA course Evolution and Behaviour, which students find provides a helpful introduction to material in our Lent term Module Evolutionary Genetics & Adaptation. The most relevant material is covered in the block of lectures delivered by Dr John Welch, that introduces evolutionary genetics and includes an Evolutionary Genetics Glossary of terms, which you may find useful over the course of the year.


Part IB Cell Development and Biology:

We recommend that those of you who have not taken CDB read the lecture notes, and those of you who have taken CDB re-read some of them, especially those delivered by lecturers from this department:


- Prof Eric Miska : Molecular Biology of the Cell Nucleus. Focuses on gene expression and transcription [see also material from Dr Torsten Krude (Dept of Zoology) that discusses the architecture of the nucleus, chromatin and DNA replication]. All this material will be valuable background for Part II Genetics.


- Dr David Summers : Genetics Systems of Prokaryotes. Strategies of gene expression and organisation in prokaryotes: the prokaryotic cell cycle, nucleoid, prokaryotic genomes (chromosomes and plasmids) and the genetic flexibility of prokaryotes.


- Prof Alfonso Martinez-Arias. Gene Expression and Cell Decisions. Decision making illustrated through consideration of the lac Operon, Lambda and S. cerevisiae.


- Dr Cahir O’Kane : eukaryotic Genome Organisation and Function: genome content, repetitive sequences and mobile elements, plus genome engineering strategies for studying cell biology and development. Cahir’s lectures introduce many of the techniques routinely used and you may find it useful to refer to these lectures during the year [e.g. sequencing (inc. NGS), Southern, northern, western blotting, PCR, DNA microarrays, SNPs, GWAS, RNAi, CRISPR-Cas9, gene targeting & transgenesis, forward and reverse genetics]. His second CDB lecture block (Coordination of Organelle & Cellular Function) introduces state-of-the-art microscopy approaches (super-resolution), useful preparation for Part II Genetics.


- Dr Marisa Segal : Cytoskeleton & Mitotic Cell Division.  The eukaryotic cytoskeleton and its role in cell shape, motility and mitotic cell division.


You will also find useful the CDB lectures on development, from other lecturers, in the Lent and Easter Terms. Reading through these should help you prepare for the Developmental Genetics Module.


Review articles, books and videos covering key concepts

Genetic Screens

From a series of reviews into “The Art & Design of Genetic Screens” in Nature Reviews Genetics we have picked out two which should be useful:

Forsburg (2001) The Art and Design of Genetic Screens: Yeast. Nature Reviews Genetics 2: 659-668. doi:10.1038/35088500

St Johnston (2002) The Art and Design of Genetic Screens: Drosophila. Nature Reviews Genetics 3: 176-188. doi:10.1038/nrg751


CRISPR-Cas9 and RNAi Technologies

Barrangou et al (2015) Advances in CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering: lessons learned from RNA interference. Nucleic Acids Research 43(7): 3407-3419.


Yeast Genetics

The Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered in 2001 by Sir Paul Nurse, in which he talks about his work on the cell cycle using yeast genetics:


Developmental Genetics

In the past pre-clinical medics & vets have told us that they find the Developmental Genetics material the most unfamiliar and they have asked us for more preparatory reading suggestions.  For those of you who have not done any developmental biology and who would like to read further around the area in preparation for the Genetics Module 3 a useful book, which gives a good overview, is Wolpert, Tickle & Martinez-Arias, Principles of Development (OUP). This book is available in the Genetics Library for everyone to refer to during the year.


Evolutionary Genetics

Charlesworth & Charlesworth, Evolution: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, (a useful introduction for Module 4). 2017 ed. is available as an e-book via UL iDiscover,

Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, is available as an e-book via UL iDiscover.

Maynard-Smith, Evolutionary Genetics, Oxford University Press. (1998 ed. Is available as an e-book via UL iDiscover. A hard copy will be available in the Genetics Library).


An excellent, general interest, genetics-orientated book is:

Mukherjee, The Gene: an intimate history, Simon & Schuster.

This book will bring alive much of the genetics material discussed in the IA Cells and MIMS lecture courses.  We strongly recommend finding a copy to read over the summer.


All books listed above are available for reference in the Genetics Library. Some are also available as e-books via the UL iDiscover page:

UL iDiscover,