Genes & Genetic Engineering - CHE00013H

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  • Department: Chemistry
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Tony Wilkinson
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2017-18

Module summary

This module will explore gene expression and protein biosynthesis illustrating how gene control can be exploited for the production of foreign (human) proteins in genetically modified micro-organisms. Techniques for manipulating genes and genomes will be introduced with examples illustrating how genetic engineering is shaping our understanding of protein function and the treatment and diagnosis of disease.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19

Module aims

This module will explore factors regulating gene expression in bacteria leading to a consideration of how knowledge of gene control can be exploited for the expression of foreign (human) genes in genetically modified micro-organisms. The remarkable molecular events associated with protein biosynthesis will be described with an emphasis on the insights emerging from structural studies of the ribosome. We will go on to explore techniques for sequencing genomes and for isolating and precisely manipulating genes. Finally, we will illustrate how genetic engineering is making penetrating breakthroughs in our understanding of protein function and in the treatment and diagnosis of disease.

Module learning outcomes

  • To understand the molecular basis of transcription, translation and DNA replication.
  • To be familiar with genetic switches and how genes are controlled.
  • To appreciate how genes can be manipulated using enzymes of DNA metabolism and the polymerase chain reaction.
  • To appreciate how genetic engineering is exploited to understand protein function and to diagnose disease.

Module content


Control of Gene Expression:

We will discuss how transcription is controlled in bacterial cells through a consideration of the structure, function and interactions of bacterial RNA polymerase. We will go on to describe the interplay of proteins and DNA sequences in the regulation of transcription of genes involved in sugar breakdown and amino acid synthesis. This will lead into coverage of genetic decision-making in bacteriophage lambda which will include a consideration of how proteins make sequence-specific contacts to DNA.


7 lectures

Protein Synthesis:

The amino acid residues along a protein chain are linked by peptide bonds. These bonds are thermodynamically unstable so energy is required for their formation. The complex cellular machinery of protein biosynthesis is described covering transcription of DNA into RNA and the role of transfer RNAs in translating the genetic code into messenger RNA at the ribosome.


5 lectures

Genomes and Genetic Engineering:

After a consideration of DNA replication, we will explore how our knowledge of gene structure and function can be exploited through genetic engineering. Methods and tools of gene cloning and expression will be described as will methods for sequencing DNA. At the heart of the discussion will be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). We will finish the course with case studies of how genetic engineering approaches are contributing to our understanding of protein function and to the diagnosis of disease.


6 lectures


1. Non-assessed. 2h AJW Motifs in Nucleic Acid Sequences.

2. Assessed. 2h AJW Design of Oligonucleotides for Genetic Engineering.


Non-assessed. 1h AJW/KSW Gene Control & Protein Biosynthesis / General Revision


Core Modules 1 - 4


1.5 h written paper (70%) plus in-course assessed exercise associated with workshop 2 in Week 10 (30%).


Task Length % of module mark
Continuous Assessment
N/A 30
University - closed examination
Genes & Genetic Engineering
1.5 hours 70

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Genes & Genetic Engineering
1.5 hours 70

Module feedback

The closed examinations are marked typically within 10 days with mark slips (with per-question break-down) being returned to students via supervisors. Outline answers are made available via the Chemistry web pages when the students receive their marks, so that they can assess their own detailed progress/achievement. The examiners reports for each question are made available to the students via the Chemistry web pages.

The coursework assignment will typically be marked within 10 days of the hand-in deadline and marked scripts will be available to students. General feedback in the form of a short written report will be loaded onto the VLE.

Indicative reading

A reading list will be provided by the module tutors.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.