Spring 2016 - MBB 736 G100

Gene Expression (3)

Class Number: 7320

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 5 – Apr 11, 2016: Mon, Wed, 12:30–2:20 p.m.



A consideration of the mechanisms and regulation of gene expression in eukaryotes and prokaryotes.


MBB 331 thoroughly examines the regulation of gene expression along the pathway from DNA to protein. In this course we’ll follow up by studying the expanding field of epigenetics, looking at chromatin structural variations and other molecular mechanisms responsible for heritable traits that do not result from changes in DNA sequence. Epigenetic inheritance is a “hot” field these days, relevant to everything from the development of model organisms through to stem cell biology, human disease and cancer.

The course will look at epigenetic inheritance and the roles of histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) and other modifiers of chromatin structure, DNA methylation, RNAi and other non-coding RNAs, histone variants, and other regulators like Polycomb (PcG) and trithorax group (trxG) proteins.  Initially, students will be working together in small, randomly-assigned groups, and each week, one or more of these will deliver group presentations on various pre-assigned topics.  Later on, each student will do an oral presentation on a topic of interest, chosen in consultation with the class and instructor; the rest of the class is expected to attend and to fill out forms to provide (constructive) feedback to their classmates.   


  • 1) Quizzes: a couple of in-class quizzes, based upon lecture/ discussion material. 25%
  • 2) Assignment 1: an oral presentation in class on a recent paper, updating one of the topics we discussed in class. This will also include a short, 1 page (single-spaced) summary in the style of Science Research News or Nature News and Views. Students in the class will provide input to assign grades for the talk and summary. 25%
  • 3) Assignment 2: a short grant proposal (3-4pp, single-spaced). Assume that you are one of the researchers involved in this research area, and that you are applying for continuing research support from a funding agency like NSERC. This proposal should give some background/literature review, discuss the importance of recent progress that you’ve made, and then proceed to outline a research plan (key experiments etc.) to advance our understanding of the research area. There should also be a discussion of potential problems, significance, and contributions of the proposed work (i.e. why it’s important for them to give you the money, etc.). I encourage students to talk to me (and to each other) about these assignments well ahead of deadlines. I’m also happy to give feedback on rough drafts of these assignments, before they are handed in. 25%
  • 4) Class participation: students are expected to attend class and to actively contribute to their small group’s presentations, as well as to discussions of topics presented by others. 25%


Based on quizzes, two assignments, and class participation (percentages may be adjusted depending upon class size etc).  Student feedback is important for grading/evaluations. 



To be determined, plus current literature.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html