BIO311: Molecular Biology

Course Syllabus for "BIO311: Molecular Biology"

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Molecular biology studies the molecular mechanisms of life, particularly those responsible for genes and their expression.  In the center of molecular biology are the nucleic acids, DNA and RNA, and how they contribute to the synthesis of proteins. After a historical introduction (Unit 1), this course describes the basic types of DNA and RNA structure and the molecular interactions that shape them (Unit 2).  Unit 3 describes how DNA is packaged within the cellular nucleus as chromosomes; in eukaryotes the DNA coils around histones to form nucleosomes that comprise the chromatin of the chromosomes.  The next three units describe the core processes of molecular biology: replication of DNA (Unit 4), transcription of DNA into messenger RNA (Unit 5), and translation of messenger RNA into a protein (Unit 6).  These are followed by modifications of these basic processes: regulation of gene expression (Unit 7), DNA mutation and repair (Unit 8), and DNA recombination and transposition (Unit 9). The course concludes with techniques commonly used in molecular biology (Unit 10, 11). These final units are important for anyone evaluating the power of molecular biology.

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Discuss the experimental findings that lead to the discovery of inheritance laws.
  • Discuss the experimental findings that lead to the identification of DNA as the hereditary material.
  • Compare and contrast the structure and function of mRNA, rRNA, tRNA, and DNA.
  • Identify the characteristics of catalyzed reactions; compare and contrast enzyme and ribozyme catalyzed reactions.
  • Discuss the structure of the chromosome and the consequence of histone modifications in eukaryotes.
  • Discuss the stages of transcription, differential splicing, and RNA turnover.
  • Predict the translation product of an mRNA using the genetic code.
  • Compare and contrast transcription and translation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
  • Identify codon bias and variations of the standard genetic code.
  • Compare and contrast the regulation of prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene expression.
  • Predict the activation of an operon and tissue specific gene expression based on the availability of regulators.
  • Compare and contrast mutations based on their effect on the gene product; discuss DNA repair mechanisms
  • Discuss DNA recombination, transposition, and the consequence of exon shuffling.
  • Design custom-made recombinant DNA using PCR, restriction enzymes, and site-directed mutagenesis.
  • Compare and contrast the uses of model organisms; discuss the uses of model organisms in specific molecular biology applications.

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.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following courses: BIO101: Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology, BIO105/CHEM101: General Chemistry I, BIO106/CHEM102: General Chemistry I, BIO107/CHEM103: Organic Chemistry I, BIO108/CHEM104: Organic Chemistry II, and BIO301: Cell Biology

Course Information

Welcome to BIO311.  Below, please find general information on this course and its requirements. 

Course Designer:  Marianna Pintér, PhD

Primary Resources:  This course is composed of 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 Units 4, 5, and 6, as these lay the groundwork for understanding the more advanced, exploratory material presented in the latter units. You will also need to complete:
       - Subunit 1.2.1: Assessment
       - Subunit 1.4: Assessment
       - Subunit 2.3.5: Assessment
       - Subunit 4.1: Assessment
       - Subunit 6.1: Assessment
       - Subunit 6.2.2: Assessment
       - Subunit 6.6.1: Assessment
       - Subunit 7.1.3: Assessment
       - Subunit 7.2.2: Assessment
       - Subunit 10.1.3: Assessment
       - Subunit 10.3.2: Assessment
       - The 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 135.5 hours to complete.  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 and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you approximately 10.5 hours to complete.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 3.5 hours) on Monday night, subunit 1.3 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Tuesday night, etc.

Tips/Suggestions:  As noted in the “Course Requirements,” there are prerequisites for this course.  You certainly want to review BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology, especiallyUnits 3, 5, and 7, before you begin.  If you find Unit 10 fascinating in this course, then consider taking the BIO403: Biotechnology course as well.  

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