BIO305: Genetics

Course Syllabus for "BIO305: Genetics"

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Genetics is the branch of biology that studies how traits are passed on from one generation to the next and why there are similarities and differences between related individuals. Prior to the discovery of genes, scientists knew that parents passed something down to their offspring, but they did not know how or what. Gregor Mendel’s famous experiments with peas indicated that certain features, such as pea texture and flower color, are encoded by two sets of traits and that the parental traits can be separated. Decades later, scientists discovered that parents passed down DNA, which was present in chromosomes. Since the discovery of DNA, we have come to appreciate the importance of chromosomes. Genomics is a relatively new field with the bold aim of understanding the function of every single gene in a genome, including the human genome. This field took off with the completion of the first sequenced genome, and after the completion of the Human Genome Project, it has attracted increasing research. Mendelian inheritance can be explained with the movement of the chromosomes during cell division. We have learned that sperm and eggs carry these chromosomes into the offspring during sexual reproduction and that genes located on those chromosomes code for the traits that make us unique. Mainly, meiosis – the germ line specific form of cell division – is responsible for a great variety of offspring during sexual reproduction. In this course, we will discuss inheritance patterns where the recessive and dominant alleles do not matter at all. For example, in the case of imprinting, the only thing that matters is the origin of the allele: some genes are always maternal (it does not matter what allele the father contributes), while other genes are always paternal (it does not matter what allele the mother contributes). Finally, the ultimate departure from Mendel is epigenetic inheritance: the environment induced post-synthetic nucleic DNA modification results in phenotypes that are not written in the DNA sequence. We will also take a close look at chromosomes, DNA, and genes. We will learn about Mendelian and non-Mendelian genetics, the movement of the chromosomes, and the location and mutation of genes in a chromosome. We will learn how hereditary information is transferred, how it can change, how it can lead to human disease, and how it can be tested to indicate disease. Genetic diseases may be diagnosed with karyotyping in the case of aneuploidy or with the help of a genetic test specifically developed to diagnose mutated alleles. It is important that researchers and physicians fully understand mitosis and meiosis, the two fundamental replication cycles, and that they are able to find out how to control each step in order to help prevent disease. Genetic tests are based on bioengineering technology, and bioengineering technology is also used for the production of genetically modified organisms. Bacterial genetics is essential to the production of recombinant DNA; thus, you will take closer look at how non-bacterial sequences can be introduced into bacteria. Recombinant DNA technology has been used to make genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Many of these GMOs are designed with usefulness for humans in mind. GMOs have their dark side as well: due to their advantageous acquired trait(s), some GMOs contribute to the decrease of biodiversity and may elicit adverse allergic reactions in uninformed individuals. Finally, you will study the genetic and phenotypic diversity of populations. You will use the laws of inheritance to explain why trait and allele frequencies change as a result of environmental pressure. We will look at examples of human populations with unusually high frequency of a disease and employ population genetics to explain why the particular disease is more common in the population. At the end of this course, you will know quite a bit about the most basic units of heredity – the very molecules that make us who we are.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • identify the phenotype and genotype of the offspring in monohybrid and dihybrid crosses;
  • construct human pedigrees, and characterize inheritance based on the pedigree pattern;
  • explain Mendel’s observation with the movement of chromosomes during cell division;
  • explain the significance of crossing over, and explain why genes on the same chromosome separate;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss mitosis and meiosis;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss oncogenes and proto-oncogenes;
  • explain why mutations may lead to the development of cancer;
  • explain epigenetic inheritance;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss multigenic inheritance and pleiotropy;
  • characterize genetic imprinting;
  • predict the probability of affected offspring in X-linked inheritance;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss Mendelian inheritance, codominance, and incomplete dominance;
  • predict the probability of offspring phenotype if a lethal allele is in play;
  • calculate the order of the genes and the distance between genes based on offspring ratios;
  • describe how non-disjunction leads to chromosomal abnormalities;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss chromosomal rearrangement and aneuploidy;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss nuclear and plasmid DNA;
  • explain the regulation of transcription in eukaryotes and in prokaryotes;
  • predict the effect of mutations on protein synthesis;
  • identify and describe techniques for gene analyses;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss conjugation, transformation, and transduction;
  • describe the regulation bacterial gene expression;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss nuclear and organellar genome organization;
  • discuss the genome size and organismal complexity;
  • compare and contrast genome sizes and the number of genes in the genomes;
  • explain how to extract information from sequenced genomes;
  • explain the significance of molecular phylogeny;
  • compare and contrast as well as discuss allelic and gene frequencies;
  • discuss the consequence of genetic variation in populations;
  • explain the role of mutations in selection; and
  • discuss how population genetics can explain the unusual frequency of diseases in certain population.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must: 
√    have access to a computer;
√    have continuous broadband Internet access;
√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);
√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;
√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);
√    have competency in the English language;
√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and
√    have completed the following courses from the Core Program of the Biology discipline: BIO101A or BIO101B and BIO102.

Course Information

Welcome to BIO305: Genetics! General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designer: Dr. Marianna Pintér

Primary Resources: This course comprises a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials. Please pay special attention to Unit 1 and Unit 2, as these lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the latter units. You will also need to complete:

  • Unit 4 Assessment
  • Unit 6 Assessment
  • Unit 7 Assessment
  • Unit 8 Assessment
  • Unit 9 Assessment
  • Final Exam

Please note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the problem sets within the above-listed assessments. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 142.75 hours to complete. There is approximately 12.75 hours of optional material. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories, to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you approximately 9 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 4.25 hours) on Monday night; subunits 1.3 through 1.7 (a total of 2.5 hours) on Tuesday night; subunits 1.8 and 1.9 (a total of 2.25 hours) on Wednesday night; etc.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.