Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
None (but see below)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 26 x 1 hour lectures
Other Presentation session: 1 x 3 hours during semester


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Groupwork (web-based review and presentation)  30%
Semester Exam 3 Hours   theory paper  70%
Supplementary Assessment 3 Hours   3 hour theory paper (70%) plus resubmission of failed coursework or alternative (30%)  100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to.

  • Appreciate the role(s) of signaling mechanisms which play important roles in many developmental programmes.
  • Understand how gene expression and cell signaling is integrated to control eukaryotic cell cellular development and tissue morphogenesis.
  • Relate key experimental evidence to the development of concepts.
  • Understand the role of cell adhesion and motility in development
  • Be familiar with developmental regulation of the early vertebrate embryo.
  • Interprete primary literature as part of the formal lecture sequence and during the assessed group work.

Brochure Text

There are no formal pre-requisites for this module but students will be expected to have a good understanding of cell biology, protein structure and function, basic development and biochemistry such as would be obtaining by taking modules BS22320 and BS21920. In addition the student will be expected to have a sound grasp of:
  • Basic cell signaling mechanisms
  • Transcription
  • mRNA processing (e.g. splicing)
  • Protein translation
  • Post-translational processing
  • It is assumed that this knowledge will have been acquired before the module starts either through appropriate modules (see above) or personal study. Suitable resources for the latter include `Molecular Cell Biology? by Lodish et al. or `Molecular Biology of the Cell? by Alberts et al. Free versions of these textbooks can be found at the NCBI bookshelf ('rb=books)

Brief description

Differential regulation of gene expression is a key process in the development of all organisms. Focusing exclusively on eukaryotes, this module examines the roles of regulated gene expression and how these impact on, and are regulated by the signalling cascades which control developmental processes.


This module examines the molecular mechanisms underlying development. It uses developmental processes to illustrate mechanisms regulating the expression of genes and cell-to-cell communication. At the same time it also seeks to demonstrate how a wide range of developmental processes are fundamentally regulated by such processes. In this way the module emphasises the intimate relationship between gene expression, cell signalling and cellular development.
We will be examining a number of developmental themes including:
  • Early development of the vertebrate embryo
  • Development of the vertebrate limb
  • Leukaemia (as an example of the perturbation of developmental processes)
  • Leaf and flower development in higher plants
  • Development of the vertebrate nervous system
  • Throughout these themes (where appropriate) we will be illustrating the roles of:
  • Regulation of transcription
  • Regulation of mRNA processing
  • Regulation of translation and post-translational processing
  • Direct cell-cell interactions
  • Cell signalling in response to soluble factors
  • Cell patterning in response to local and systemic signals
  • The coursework assessment will be a group-work project worth 30% of the total module marks.


The understanding of how patterns of gene expression impacts on cellular and therefore whole organism, function is essential to modern molecular biology. In this module we aim to use eukaryotic developmental processes to illustrate the impact of gene expression and signalling. To do this we will focus on a number of fundamental developmental `decisions? such as the establishment of embryonic axes or floral identity to show that these global morphological features are all the products of signalling cascades influencing differential gene expression.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Not relevant to course
Communication The students will be expected to read widely, integrate widely differing forms of information and communicate the relevant (sometimes opposing) data in their essay, poster and presentations. The poster is a widely used format to present results in scientific conferences
Improving own Learning and Performance The course has an emphasis on self ¿learning as integral to the fully exploiting the opportunities offered by the course. This entails the students developing their own learning regimes based on careful self-management of time and study approaches.
Information Technology The course requires the use of commonly used software packages to prepare written coursework and presentations. The students will also be expected to extract information from the internet; for example, information on genes sequences and function.
Personal Development and Career planning The course will develop the student¿s ability to access data from a variety of sources and both synthesise into either a traditional text (essay) or an oral or poster presentation. This will augment the student¿s critical faculties and communication skills. Such represent valuable transferable skills. The molecule also acts as an introduction into major areas of scientific research and should therefore help in the planning of future courses (MPhil/PhD) or careers,
Problem solving Not a formal part of the course
Research skills The course demands considerable further reading in order for the students to fully understand the concepts that will be discussed in the lectures as well as for the workshop and coursework essay. This reading must include primary research papers. Therefore, the students will be expected to understand experimental approaches and results. This, together with the proper assessment of the results, demands considerable research skills. A feature of the lecture material will be a stress on the experimental rationale used to generate the given data.
Subject Specific Skills The subjects covered are major areas of research in molecular biology. The will be a large number of vocational opportunities which will arise from the knowledge base and practical exercises which feature in this module.
Team work The students will be expected to collaborate within small groups to develop a presentation on a given topic and a poster. This will involve showing interpersonal skills to come to join decisions as to the major themes of the topic under-discussion and share the work-loads appropriately.


This module is at CQFW Level 6