Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Gene Expression and Developmental Genetics
Academic Year
Semester 2
External Examiners
  • Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison (Professor - University of Leicester)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Workshop 1 x 3 Hour Workshop
Lecture 50 x 1 Hour Lectures
Workshop 2 x 2 Hour Workshops


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Workshop 1 report.  10%
Semester Assessment Workshop 2 report.  10%
Semester Assessment Group work.  20%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   Theory paper.  60%
Supplementary Assessment Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  40%
Supplementary Exam 3 Hours   Students must take elements of assessment equivalent to those that led to failure of the module.  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Describe the key mechanisms that underpin vertebrate development.

2. Describe the development of the early amniote embryo discussing the roles of key signals and regulated gene expression at each stage.

3. Discuss the regulation of the development of key tissues and structures in the post-gastrulation embryo and identify common themes and mechanisms.

4. Discuss the role of gene expression and/or signaling in the aetiology of developmental abnormalities and cancer, and relate this to regulation of normal development.

5. Discuss the role of signaling and gene expression in plant development.

6. Critically assess the published literature.

7. Analyse experimental data and formulate hypotheses showing how these are supported by data.

8. Demonstrate an ability to summarise complex ideas and information.

9. Demonstrate an appreciation of team roles and organization.

Brief description

This module discusses the molecular biology of development. The module gives an account of the early embryo and follows this with sections detailing the development of major tissues and structures. The molecular biology of plant development is also examined. Throughout the module emphasizes the role of signalling and gene expression in coordinating complex developmental processes.


The module begins with a short recapitulation of some of the key topics discussed in the year 2 module (Molecular Cell Biology). This is followed by lectures focusing on topics central to developmental biology such as homeotic selector genes and PCD. There follows a detailed survey of amniote development focusing especially on human development and highlighting the molecular regulation of key developmental processes such as gastrulation and somitogenesis. The unique attributes of the placenta, its relationship with the maternal and foetal tissues and its relationship with the maternal immune system will be examined. The central roles of cell signaling and differential gene expression will be emphasized throughout.
Following this holistic account of the early embryo, subsequent sections will focus on later developmental processes including formation of the limb, development of the central nervous system and the human brain, the regulation of haematopiesis and its relationship to leukaemia, the immune system, the genetic basis of developmental abnormalities. In all cases the underlying molecular mechanisms will be described and related to common themes of gene expression and signaling which form the backbone of the module. There will also be a short section focusing on plant developmental genetics.
Two workshops will use data analysis and virtual experiments to emphasise and expand the taught material.
Groupwork will consist of the preparation of support materials for revision and engagement with teamwork analysis tools.
In addition there will be four ad-hoc lecture sessions based on recent developments in developmental biology
The module will also feature a 2 hour session involving an invited speaker who will talk about her or his work in a field related to the topic and discuss career paths with students.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number There will be a requirement to summarise and analyse workshop data using standard statistical procedures.
Communication The teams will be required to produce a revision document for each area of the module. This will need to summarise the core content and include material from additional sources and present this in a concise readable form supported by reinforcement exercises developed by the group.
Improving own Learning and Performance
Information Technology
Personal Development and Career planning Opportunity to hear about a career related to the topic and question an invited speaker about career paths.
Problem solving Workshops will require the application of logic to interpret sets of experimental data and formulate an hypothesis based on the data and support this hypothesis with argument.
Research skills
Subject Specific Skills
Team work The groupwork will require that regular meetings are held and minutes kept. Team members will analyse the roles they have played in the team (for which a structure is suggested).


This module is at CQFW Level 6