Fall 2020 - MBB 436 D100

Gene Expression (3)

Class Number: 5856

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Wed, Fri, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 331, with a minimum grade of C.



Lectures and student presentations will cover the wide range of ways in which organisms (primarily eukaryotes) regulate gene expression along the pathway from DNA to protein.


General Course Description:  

MBB 331 thoroughly examines the regulation of gene expression along the pathway from DNA to protein.  In this course we will follow up with a focus on the field of post-transcriptional and translational regulation. Post-transcriptional and translational regulation has recently emerged as a critical regulatory layer of gene expression control, that influences everything from acute cellular responses to the environments to stem cell biology, human disease and cancer. 

The course will start with several overview sessions on all the steps of gene expression regulation from DNA to Protein. The course will then focus on regulation at the post-transcriptional and translational levels, examining in more detail a number of topics including RNA splicing, RNA editing, RNA modifications, RNA export, RNA degradation/decay and protein synthesis. We will discuss the molecular basis of each process including RNA sequences and structures as well as protein complexes that mediate the regulation. We will look at the impacts of each regulatory step in the global gene expression program of the cell. We will also examine how these processes are connected and how dysregulation in these pathways can lead to diseases such as cancer. Using this platform, we will explore relevant current and emerging technologies and how they can be employed to answer both basic and translational questions. We will also discuss experimental methods to manipulate gene expression and how mechanistic insights can be translated to therapeutic applications.


  • Based on oral presentations and two assignments (mid-term and final) and evaluation of class participation (approximate, may be adjusted depending upon class size etc). Student feedback is important for grading/evaluations.
  • Oral presentation (~30% each): oral presentations in class on a recent paper, updating one of the topics we discussed in class. Students assigned to a specific session are expected to lead the discussion under guidance of instructor. Students in the class will provide input to assign grades for the talk and summary. 30%
  • Assignment (~25% each): mid-term and final assignments in a form of problem sets, paper report or mini-review providing critical analysis of assigned journal article. The report should include big questions, background/literature review, questions addressed by the paper, general approach, experiments, interpretations and discussion of potential problems, significance, and contributions of the work. Students will have opportunities to choose specific articles from a collection. Students are encouraged to talk to instructors (and to each other) about these assignments. 50%
  • Class participation (~20%): students are expected to actively contribute to their group’s presentations, as well as to discussions of topics presented by others. 20%


  • Lecture:  blended (synchronous lectures, recorded and available online for asynchronous viewing and students are expected to attend scheduled presentations assigned to them) 
  • Tutorial:  synchronous (attendance is not mandatory)  
  • Assessments:  blended; both synchronous (presentation and class participation) and asynchronous assessments (take-home exams/papers/assignments)



  • Access to high-speed internet
  • Computer

Department Undergraduate Notes:

  • For help with writing, learning and study strategies please contact the Student Learning Commons at
  • Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability, must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (778-782-3112 or e-mail:  caladmin@sfu.ca)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).