MBG*4300 Plant Molecular Genetics

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2015 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

Plants are immobile, autotrophic and multicellular: How do genes and gene regulation make immobility possible?  How are plants and plant molecular genetics unique compared to animals (mobile, heterotrophic), microbes (unicellular) or fungi (immobile, heterotrophic)? In this course, you will be given weekly background lectures (one per week) in plant molecular genetics including guided tutorials using online genetics, genomics, molecular biology, proteomics and metabolomics databases. Topics will include plant proteins and proteomics, evolution of plant proteins and plant genomes, coordination of nuclear and chloroplast genomes, plant gene regulation, and the molecular genetics of primary and secondary metabolism, biotic and abiotic stress resistance and plant development. In addition, the class will be divided into small tutorial group sections which will each meet once per week with the course instructor. The purpose of the tutorial section format is to solve problems in plant molecular genetics using independent problem-based learning. In the problem-based learning component, students will learn about the practice of being a critical scientist, which involves understanding what is truly known and unknown, designing logical experiments to test hypotheses, writing and defending grant proposals and anonymous peer reviewing of the proposals of others. The course will also include formal career mentoring with the instructor.


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to Web Advisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, successful students will:
  • Have gained basic background knowledge and literacy in plant molecular genetics sufficient for a post-graduate career in molecular genetics or plant molecular genetics
  • Have basic competency with online databases used by experimental plant molecular geneticists, including: genomics, metabolomics, proteomics and molecular biology databases
  • Have learned to generate focused questions, generate hypotheses and design a series of logical experiments to test the hypotheses, as training for writing post-graduate scholarship proposals in molecular genetics
  • be competent in verbally presenting and defending experimental proposals, as training for a career in post-graduate research in the real world including presentations at scientific conferences
  • be able to critically evaluate experimental proposals in plant molecular genetics, as training for anonymous scientific peer review in the real world.
  • Have skills that enable them to select a long-term career, based on in-class and one-on-one career mentoring sessions.

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered in lectures include:
  • Introduction to plants: plant strategies; life cycle; anatomy.
  • Intro to arabidopsis
  • Molecular methods
  • Genetic methods
  • How to map and isolate a gene: Creating RIL lines, F2 populations, LOD scores, molecular marker-assisted mapping, BAC clones, complementation.
  • Practice of being a scientist: Real world process of peer reviewing, publishing, grants, citation impact AND Careers, Grad school, etc.
  • Arabidopsis genome
  • Geonomics tutorial
  • Proteomics tutorial
  • Metabolomics tutorial
  • Online molecular and software tools
  • Continuing education: Online tour of great science websites, online lectures, plant biology sites.
Labs & Seminars:

No labs: Small group tutorial sessions.  Independent, problem based learning.

Course Assignments and Tests:

Week Due (in small group section) Weight





5 min oral report of great unsolved problem nomination for group vote

4% oral


Oral report of grant proposal background info; feedback on experimental design

4% oral


Written 2 page grant proposal due; Oral defence; vote on best proposal

10% +4% oral


Written 1-2 page anonymous grant peer-review due;
Discussion for next cycle

8% (written)


5 min oral report of great unsolved problem nomination for group vote

4% oral


Reading Week, no classes



Oral report of grant proposal background info; feedback on experimental design

4% oral


Written 2 page grant proposal due; Oral defence;
vote on best proposal

20% +4% oral


Written 1-2 page anonymous grant peer-review due
Discussion for next cycle

16% (written)


5 min oral report of great unsolved problem nomination for group vote

4% oral


Oral report of grant proposal background info;
feedback on experimental design

4% oral


Oral Defence of proposal; vote on best proposal

4% oral

No final






Remaining 10% of evaluation -- Tuesday In-Class Quiz Dates (each 2%)

Final examination:

There is no final examination scheduled for this course.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:

None (we read the primary literature).

The course relies on the primary literature and review papers, but a useful text is: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants (W.Gruissem, R.Buchanan and R.Jones, eds) John Wiley and Sons, published 2002 (copies available in the Library). Students are encouraged to read articles in high quality journals including but not limited to:

Relevant Primary Journals: 

Plant Cell, Plant Journal, Plant Physiology

Relevant Review Journals:

Annual Review of Plant Biology, Trends in Plant Science, Current Opinion in Plant Biology

General Journals: Science, Nature, Cell. Genes and Development. Development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS), Nature Genetics, Nature Reviews Genetics, PloS, Developmental Cell, Genetics

Lab Manual:


Online plant genomics databases:

Several lectures will involve guided tutorials in a computer lab concerning online databases related to plant genetics, genomics, metabolomics and proteomics, including but not limited to:

Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Late policy:

No oral presentations are accepted late, nor can missed in-class tests be re-written, except without a medical note or extreme circumstance. For late written assignments, there will be a 20% mark deduction per day, except when a medical note or other extreme circumstance is presented.

Time and place for submission:

All written and oral submissions are due in class by the end of the assigned tutorial section.

Grading system:

Please refer to the undergraduate course calendar:


Course Policy on Group Work:

There is no group work in this course, though each tutorial group is encouraged to provide experimental suggestions and critical evaluation following in-class oral presentations.

Recording of Materials:

Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the written permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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