Fall 2020 - MBB 736 G100

Gene Expression (3)

Class Number: 6304

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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


  • 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%


  • 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

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://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).