Molecular & Cellular Biology BSc/MSci

DNA 4Y option BIOL4039

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Molecular Biosciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 1
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

Our primary aim is for students to see and understand the processes in DNA biochemistry and cell biology at high resolution. The course teaches modern methods of structural analysis to give an appreciation of DNA structure and protein-DNA interactions at the level of individual base-pairs, amino-acid side chains and even atoms.


Each Friday of the 10-week course, there is one 2-hour taught session in the morning and a 1-hour session in the afternoon.

Excluded Courses



The course will be assessed by a 2-hour examination (75%) and in-course assessment consisting of interpretation of an edited version of a published scientific paper (25%). The in-course assessment will be undertaken under examination conditions in a timed session; the students will be given material in advance.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

The primary aim of this course is to give students an understanding of the biochemical processes that involve DNA within living cells. We want the students to appreciate our current understanding of the 'DNA World'.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

■ Evaluate and interpret main features of the primary and secondary structures of DNA, and how DNA structures can be modified by the molecular environment or by interactions with proteins; 

■ Discuss and analyse DNA topology and supercoiling; interpret how these properties affect DNA structure and biochemistry, how proteins can change them, and why they are important for cellular processes; 

■ Discuss how proteins make sequence-specific and non-specific interactions with DNA; how DNA is packed in cells, and consequences for its metabolism; 

■ Discuss and critically appraise current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of DNA replication, transcription, recombination, and transposition;

■ Analyse and interpret the basic mechanisms of some of the enzymes that carry out DNA repair; 

■ Appraise 3-D structures of DNA and protein-DNA complexes on computers and interpret the different types of protein-DNA interactions; 

■ Critically assess and interpret a scientific paper relevant to the course content.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.