The history of microbiology is extremely linked to the development of biotechnological techniques from environmental, medical, nutritional and industrial points of view. The main aim of the course is to illustrate how to translate some molecular and cellular aspects of bacteria into biotechnological applications. The topics of the course span the profiling of complex microbial communities, the development of whole cell biosensors, natural and artificial gene regulation at post-transcriptional level, phage therapy and anti-horizontal gene transfer mechanisms. The course is ideally linked to those dealing with Biotechnological products and processes.
Expected learning outcomes
After following this course, the students will develop a better capability to face the route of exploitation of bacterial functions in a biotechnological perspective. In particular, they will learn how: i) to screen complex microbial ecosystems to discover novel biotechnological products such as enzyme activities of industrial interest, ii) to improve the performance of whole cell biosensors, iii) to exploit post-transcriptional regulations for metabolic engineering applications, iv) to use artificial gene silencing and phage therapy to struggle against bacterial pathogens, v) to derive tools for genome engineering from bacterial anti-horizontal gene transfer mechanisms.
Lesson period: First semester
(In case of multiple editions, please check the period, as it may vary)
The course is focused on several biotechnological aspects of the molecular and cellular microbiology. Modern methods of genomics and functional genomics (e.g. DNA- and RNA-sequencing, metagenomics, transcriptomics, metatranscriptomics) will be described, with application to the profiling of uncultivated microbial communities present in complex ecosystems. Gene regulation at post-transcriptional level mediated by small RNAs, that represent potentially useful tools for metabolic engineering applications, will be treated extensively. Artificial gene silencing by antisense oligomers for the development of non-conventional antibiotics as well as phage therapy to combat bacterial pathogens will be discussed. In addition, the development of whole-cell biosensors for the detection of environmental pollutants, and anti-horizontal gene transfer mechanisms with their use for genome engineering will be described.
Prerequisites for admission
Good knowledge of molecular biology, genetics and microbiology.
Teaching mode: classroom lectures supported by projected material. Attendance is highly recommended.
Bibliographic references including relevant original articles will be listed during the course in the projected slides. Copies of the slides projected in the classroom as well as other materials will be made available through the course website on the ARIEL platform of the University of Milano (https://gbertonimcm.ariel.ctu.unimi.it/v5/home/Default.aspx). By no means this material replaces the lectures or a textbook. The material is made available only to registered students of the Degree Course in Molecular Biotechnology and Bioinformatics and should not be distributed to others.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The evaluation of the student's performance is based on a written examination with 2-3 open-answer questions on topics covered in the course. A written examination allows students to show their ability to describe in details and critically comment the concepts learned during the course. No exercises are present in the examination test. Examples of the examination test will be discussed during classes and made available to students.