Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Genetics and Developmental Biology

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course




This study-unit covers the fundamental principles and contemporary concepts in genetics, while over-viewing the diversity of approaches with which this subject has investigated heredity, genes, genomes, molecular technology and population genetics.

Classical Mendelian genetics, its extensions and exceptions, and human Mendelian genetics investigated through pedigree analyses paves the way to the more innovative areas of molecular genetics through recombinant DNA technology, genome organization and gene mapping, (genomics), cloning and a basic overview of the applications of these techniques in today’s world. The role of genetic variation, its measurement and relationship to environmental variation, its maintenance by selection and its use in taxonomy, and genetic diversity assessments within and between populations will be considered side by side to the applications of these analyses. Thus, population genetics and evolutionary genetics will be considered hand in hand with the molecular aspects of genetics to produce a more detailed understanding of what makes human and species diversity possible. The importance of genetic diversity for survival of species in a changing environment and the ethical issues related to genetics and its developing technology will be discussed.

The main topics to cover will include:

• Mendelian Genetics and its extensions and exceptions
    - Mendel’s experiments, results and postulates/laws of heredity;
    - Extensions of Mendelian Genetics;
    - Human Pedigree analyses;
    - Nature-Nurture / Genetics-Environment studies.

• Quantitative and Population Genetics:
    - Principles of population genetics, including the Hardy-Weinberg Law;
    - Extensions of the Hardy Weinberg law;
    - Calculating heterozygote frequency
    - Changes to gene frequencies caused by: Natural selection, mutation, genetic drift, nonrandom mating;
    - Methods of investigating genetic structure and differences within and between populations across space and time;
    - Conservation Genetics and its applications.

• Molecular Genetics, its latest advances and applications;
    - Chromosome Structure and DNA Sequence organization;
    - Gene expression and Gene mutation;
    - Extranuclear Inheritance;
    - Genetic analyses of Bacteria and Bacteriophages;

Developmental Biology

The objective of this study-unit is to introduce students to the process of embryological development and pattern morphogenesis in animals. The treatment of the subject from the chemical, physiological and morphological aspects is envisaged to help grasp the concept of the developmental processes in embryonic forms in view of the sequence of subtle, well-timed, gene controlled changes which form the basis of embryogenesis. This topic will be considered in a comparative manner where various organisms’ embryology will be dealt with, including Echinoderms, Insects, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals. Amongst the areas there will be an overview of the following stages in various organisms:

• Comparative Animal Gametogenesis:
    - How structure and function of gametes fit their role and natural environments toward successful fertilization.

• Comparative Fertilization
    - The reaction of the egg; The essence of activation; The spermatozoon in the egg interior; the changes caused by fertilization, such as, the organization of the egg cytoplasm; Avoidance of polyspermy; Compare and contrast this developmental stage in various animals from echinoderms to mammals.

• Comparative Cleavage
    - Chemical changes during cleavage; Patterns of cleavage and role of the yolk size and position; Morula and Blastula formation; the nuclei of cleavage cells; Distribution of cytoplasmic substances in the egg during cleavage; Compare and contrast this developmental stage in various animals from echinoderms to mammals.
    - Comparative Gastrulation
    - Cell movements and Fate maps; formation of rudimentary tissue layers: mesoderm, ectoderm and endoderm; Compare and contrast this developmental stage in various animals from echinoderms to mammals.
    - Pattern morphogenesis and organogenesis.

Study-unit Aims:

The general aim of this study-unit is to cover the main basic concepts of Genetics and Developmental biology. While the former part of the course will allow the students to cover theory and practice in aspects of Mendelian, Molecular and Population genetics, it will also pave the way for the understanding of genetic processes responsible in developmental biology of organisms. The latter part of the study-unit will then focus on the main stages of embryonic development in various organisms so as to compare and contrast the developmental processes.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
a) Define and expand on the theoretical principles underlying genetics and developmental biology.
b) Distinguish the areas of genetics and developmental biology and their respective research tools.
c) Discuss current research trends and developing technologies applied to genetics and developmental biology.
d) Discuss the use of different areas of genetics and developmental biology to solve current human problems and research development applications on both human and non-human species.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
a) Analyse data and information through case-studies, literature review and practical sessions.
b) Communicate their findings both orally and in proper written format through seminar presentations.
c) Consolidate skills in literature review and critical consideration of both the theoretical and practical issues linked to the areas of genetics and developmental biology.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:


KLUG, WS., CUMMING, MR., SPENCER C., & PALLADINO MA., and MICHAEL R. (2011) 10th Ed. Concepts of Genetics, Benjamin Cummings.
KLUG WS, CUMMINGS MR., SPENCER C., & PALLADINO MA., (2010) 7th Ed. Essentials of Genetics, Benjamin Cummings.

Developmental Biology:

- GILBERT, SF (2010) 9th Ed. Developmental Biology. In Sinauer Assoc.
- Gilbert, S.F. and Raunio, A.M., Eds. (1997). Embryology: Constructing the Organism. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

ADDITIONAL NOTES Pre-requisite Study-units: B.Sc. (Hons) 1st Year and 2nd Year Study-Units or equivalent.

Students are to note that they will be allowed to sit for this study-unit examination and will be awarded a grade only if they have regularly attended lectures and practical classes, if they have submitted any assignments, including practical reports and if they satisfy all other study-unit requirements.

Please note that a pass in the Practical component is obligatory for an overall pass mark to be awarded.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture, Tutorial, Practical & Independent Study

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Practical [See Add. Notes] SEM1 No 25%
Take Home Examination (24 Hours) SEM1 Yes 75%

LECTURER/S Adriana Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.