Module Identifier BS34820  
Academic Year 2006/2007  
Co-ordinator Professor John Draper  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Dr Ian M Scott, Dr Gareth W Griffith, Dr Luis A J Mur  
Pre-Requisite BS23720  
Course delivery Lecture   30 x 1 h lectures  
  Seminars / Tutorials   10 Hours. 2 x 3 hour presentations on Apoptosis, 2 x 2 hour discussion workshops  
  Practical   The students are expected to construct an electronic poster to accompany presentation.  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Exam3 Hours theory paper  70%
Semester Assessment Presentation workshop (15%), coursework essay (15%)30%
Supplementary Assessment3 Hours One three hour theory paper (80%) plus essay (20%)100%

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to.
1. Should have a thorough understanding of the fundamental molecular processes underlying differential gene expression.
2. Be familiar with key signaling mechanisms which play important roles in many developmental programmes.
3. Understand how gene expression and cell signaling is integrated to control eukaryotic cell cellular development and tissue morphogenesis.
4. Be familiar with developmental control concepts associated with organ formation during vertebrate embryogenesis.
5. Students will have gained some experience of interpreting the literature associated with a mechanistic understanding of programmed cell death in the assessed workshop.


The module is essentially split into three sections. The first section examines the mechanisms of differential gene expression from gene to protein. The second part will introduce some key signalling mechanisms used in eukaryotic cells. The final section shows how the control of gene expression and signalling pathways are integrated into developmental processes.

Part One: - The Control of Gene Expression

In multicellular organism, developmental pathways are often regulated by perception of chemical cues from other cells. Thus, a basic knowledge of these processes is critical to understanding the induction of gene expression. This is followed by an examination of the role of inducible transcription factors in the regulation of gene transcription. Here we shall discuss how, in response to the activation of signalling pathways, combinations of transcription factors can either up- or down-regulate transcription of target genes. The RNA resulting from transcription represents the unprocessed transcript. Following processing, mRNA is translated. Translation too is subject to differential regulation. The overall rate of translation can be altered, and translation of individual mRNA species can be blocked. The newly-formed polypeptide is also subject to a variety of post-translational modifications, e.g. targeting and degradation.

Part Two- An overview of cell signalling

This section will introduce signals and signaling cascades by focusing on three pathways which will feature in Part 3. Therefore, signaling associated with retinoic acid, which plays a key role in patterning in embryos and the Ras GTP-binding protein proto-onco-gene and other pro-carcinogenic proteins associated with epithethial growth factor/ mitogenic activated protein kinase cascade will be explored.
At this point we shall take a short break from formal lectures. Split into small groups, students will prepare talk and a poster on an aspect of apoptosis; a programmed cell death mechanism utilised in mammalian cells. The presentation will be marked by the class and will contribute 15% of the final module marks.

Part Three: Gene Expression and Signalling in Developmental Processes.

The final section considers developmental processes in plants, fungi and vertebrates.


The understanding of how patterns of gene expression impacts on cellular and therefore whole organism, function is essential to modern molecular biology. This will encompass several very important biological subjects, namely, the control of gene transcription, post-translational control and intra- and inter-cell signalling. These topics will be taught within the framework of such development topics as the control of floral identity, carcinogenesis, apoptosis and the elaboration of the mammalian body plan. All of these topics are major areas of current research.

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 mechanisms of regulated gene expression and how these impact on signalling cascades which control developmental processes.

Module Skills

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.  
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.  
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.  
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.  
Application of Number Not relevant to course  
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,  
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.  


This module is at CQFW Level 6