Short course in molecular biology (2017/2018)

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Course code
Name of lecturer
Massimiliano Perduca
Massimiliano Perduca
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Other available courses
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I sem. dal Oct 2, 2017 al Jan 31, 2018.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to give the students the basic knowledge of the molecular mechanisms concerning transmission, variation and expression of the genetic information.
At the end of the course the students will be able to recognize the major molecular mechanisms of life in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.


-> Genetic information and informational molecules
General introduction and historical hints. The chemical structure of DNA and RNA. Three dimensional structure of DNA. Physico-chemical properties of DNA.
-> DNA, RNA and gene structure
Definition of gene coding and regulatory regions. From genes to proteins; messenger RNA, transfer RNA and ribosomal RNA.
-> Genome organization and evolution
DNA content and number of genes. Mutations, DNA rearrangement and genome evolution. The organelle genomes. Interrupted genes; introns. cDNA. Gene families and duplication. DNA repeats.
-> Transposable elements
Transposition mechanisms and control. Retroviruses and retrotransposones. Transposons.
-> Chromatin and chromosomes
Nucleosomes, histones and their modifications. Higher organization levels of chromatin. Heterochromatin and euchromatin. Eukaryotic chromosomes, telomeres and centromeres.
-> DNA replication
DNA polymerases. Proofreading activity of DNA polymerases. Replication mechanism in bacteria and eukaryotic cells.
-> Introns and RNA splicing
Features of spliceosomal introns. Spliceosome and splicing mechanism. Alternative splicing and trans-splicing. Other kinds of introns: group I and group II introns and tRNA introns. The intron movement. RNA editing. Ribozymes and riboswitch.
-> DNA mutation and repair
Spontaneous mutations and mutations caused by physical and chemical mutagens. Pre- and post-replicative repair systems. Recombination in the immunity system cells. Approaches to homologous recombination.
-> Regulation of gene expression
Bacterial promoters. The operon. Activators, repressors and coactivators. Signal transductions and two component regulation systems. Eukaryotic promoters. Activators, repressors and coactivators. Gene expression and chromatin modifications. Epigenetic mechanisms.
-> RNAs and transcription
Different types of RNA: synthesis and maturation. Bacterial RNA polymerase. Sigma factors. Eukaryotic RNA polymerases. Eukaryotic mRNAs: capping, polyadenylation, cytoplasmic localization. The transcription process in bacteria and in eukaryotic cells.
-> Translation
Ribosomes. tRNA structure and function. Aminoacyl-tRNA synthesis. Initiation in bacteria and eukaryotic cells. Polypeptide chain synthesis and translation end. Regulation of translation.
-> Protein localization.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Jocelyn E. Krebs, Elliott S. Goldstein, Stephen T. Kilpatrick Lewin's Genes XII (Edizione 12) Jones & Bartlett Pub 2017 1284104494
Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, David Morgan, Martin Raff Molecular Biology of the Cell (Edizione 7) Garland Science 2017 0815344643
Nancy Craig, Rachel Green, Carol Greider, Gisela Storz, Cynthia Wolberger, Orna Cohen-Fix Molecular Biology: Principles of Genome Function (Edizione 2) OUP Oxford 2014 0199658579
Harvey Lodish, Arnold Berk, Chris A. Kaiser, Monty Krieger, Anthony Bretscher, Hidde Ploegh, Angelika Amon, Kelsey C. Martin Molecular Cell Biology (Edizione 8) Macmillan 2016 9781464187445
Geoffrey M. Cooper, Robert E. Hausman The cell: a molecular approach (Edizione 6) Sinauer Associates, Inc 2013 978-1-60535-155-1

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral examination.
The final exam will be on two questions concerning any of the topics treated during the course and it is passed if both answers are positive.