Gene Expression & Developmental Genetics


Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
● Appreciate the role(s) of signaling mechanisms which play important roles in many developmental programmes
● Understand how gene expression and cell signaling is integrated to control eukaryotic cell cellular development and tissue morphogenesis
● Relate key experimental evidence to the development of concepts
● Understand the role of cell adhesion and motility in development
● Be familiar with developmental regulation of the early vertebrate embryo
● Interprete primary literature as part of the formal lecture sequence and during the assessed group work

Brief Description

Differential regulation of gene expression is a key process in the development of all organisms. Focusing exclusively on eukaryotes, this module examines the roles of regulated gene expression and how these impact on, and are regulated by the signalling cascades which control developmental processes.


This module examines the molecular mechanisms underlying development. It uses developmental processes to illustrate mechanisms regulating the expression of genes and cell-to-cell communication. At the same time it also seeks to demonstrate how a wide range of developmental processes are fundamentally regulated by such processes. In this way the module emphasises the intimate relationship between gene expression, cell signalling and cellular development.

We will be examining a number of developmental themes including:
● Early development of the vertebrate embryo
● Development of the vertebrate limb
● Leukaemia (as an example of the perturbation of developmental processes)
● Leaf and flower development in higher plants
● Development of the vertebrate nervous system Throughout these themes (where appropriate) we will be illustrating the roles of:
● Regulation of transcription
● Regulation of mRNA processing
● Regulation of translation and post-translational processing
● Direct cell-cell interactions
● Cell signalling in response to soluble factors
● Cell patterning in response to local and systemic signals

The coursework assessment will be a group-work project worth 30% of the total module marks.


The understanding of how patterns of gene expression impacts on cellular and therefore whole organism, function is essential to modern molecular biology. In this module we aim to use eukaryotic developmental processes to illustrate the impact of gene expression and signalling. To do this we will focus on a number of fundamental developmental 'decisions' such as the establishment of embryonic axes or floral identity to show that these global morphological features are all the products of signalling cascades influencing differential gene expression.