Degree course: 
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
First Semester
Standard lectures hours: 

To follow this course the student must have a good understanding of basic molecular biology and genetics and of the main techniques of molecular biology and genetic engineering. A good knowledge of English will be important to read and understand texts and publications that will be provided to the students as teaching material.

Final Examination: 

The learning outcomes will be assessed through two independent oral interviews (one for each teaching module) lasting approximately 25-30 minutes/module, during which topics selected from the syllabus will be discussed. The final evaluation will include an overall assessment regarding: 1) the basic knowledge about issues related to the course content (50%); 2) the ability to properly motivate statements and to sustain an adequate discussion (30%) and 3) the communication skills (20%). The final mark will be calculated as the arithmetic average of the marks attained by the student for both teaching modules. The exam will be considered passed with a final mark equal or higher than a 18/30 threshold.

Voto Finale

This course is organized in two distinct modules (“Epigenetic control of gene expression” and “Molecular mechanisms of gene expression regulation”)
This course aims at providing the basic knowledge regarding the principles and the molecular mechanisms underlying both the epigenetic control of gene expression, with emphasis on how chromatin accessibility is regulated by the modification and reorganization of chromatin, and the molecular mechanisms regulating gene expression downstream of epigenetic control, i.e. at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels.
At the end of the course, the student is expected:
• to have acquired up-to-date knowledge regarding the principles of the molecular mechanisms underlying the control of gene expression, at both genetic and epigenetic levels.
• to be capable of critically evaluating the experimental strategies to address questions in these topics.
• to acquire the ability to achieve an informed judgment, adequate expertise and communication skills in relation to both the experimental approaches and main scientific achievements related to the mechanisms underlying regulation of gene expression.
• To achieve the ability to develop a critic awareness in order to analyze and discuss issues related to the course contents and to reach the comprehension skills required to develop and maintain issues related to the acquired knowledge, by means of critical reasoning and problem-solving attitudes.

Module 1: Epigenetic control of gene expression (2 CFUs)

• Introduction to the concept of epigenetics and some examples of epigenetic regulation in the animal world. A brief review of the transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes. (2 hours)
• DNA methylation as an epigenetic mechanism: distribution in different organisms; techniques for its analysis; enzymes involved in specifying the pattern of DNA methylation in mammals; the role of DNA methylation and experimental approaches to understand its functions; the readers of DNA methylation and their mode of action. Hydroxymethylcytosine as a novel epigenetic signal. (5 hours)
• ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes; post-translational modifications of histones and the associated writers and readers; the histone code (4 hours).
• Non-coding RNAs as novel regulators of gene expression. Different classes of non-coding RNAs and their biosynthesis; their involvement in regulating gene expression; associated pathologies. (5 hours)

Module 2: Molecular mechanisms of gene expression regulation (2 CFUs)

• Assembly of the transcriptional apparatus at a gene’s promoter: summary (2 hours)
• Eucaryotic trancription factors: a briew recap (1 hour)
• Remote cis-acting elements for gene expression regulation: enhancers, insulators and Locus Control Regions and their mechanisms of action (3 hours)
• Comparative genomics approaches for regulatory elements identification (1 hour)
• Alternative splicing and poly-adenylation; trans-splicing (2 hours)
• RNA editing (1 hour)
• Regulation of mRNA transport (1 hour)
• RNA surveillance mechanisms: Nonsense-mediated decay, Nonstop-mediated decay and NoGo decay. RNA sponges (2 hours)
• The leaking bucket model: machanisms regulating RNA degradation (2 hours)
• Post-translational regulation mechanisms (1 hour)

For both modules, all arguments will include an explanation of different experimental approaches aimed at demonstrating the current evidence. The students will thus review the main molecular biology techniques used in modern laboratories. Special emphasis will be given to the concept of proper controls allowing a correct interpretation of the experiments.

Teaching and didactic materials are regularly updated and will be provided to all students in the e-learning online platform as Powerpoint or Pdf files, short notes, animation files and articles from scientific literature focussed on selected issues related to the course’s topics.


4 CFUs of oral class lectures, as reported in the course content section. Class lessons will be held with the aid of slide presentation sessions, possibly coupled to projection of didactic movies when required.