RNA Biology

Course content

During the first 6 weeks, central topics in RNA research will be introduced in overview lectures. Topics include mRNA biogenesis and degradation, translation, RNA modifications, small and long non-coding RNA, CRISPR-Cas systems in bacteria antiviral defence and in genome engineering, the RNA world, ribozymes, RNA-binding proteins. We include many recent advances in this rapidly developing field of research, and see, for example, how structure determination by cryo electron microscopy has revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental steps in the processing of genetic information. We also discuss biomedical applications of advances in RNA biology, and discuss, for example, how covalent nucleotide modifications are a prerequisite for development of safe mRNA vaccines. Time is also reserved for group work and invited lectures with leading RNA Biology researchers from Danish universities and biotech firms. The project work is in groups of 2-3 students. Each group studies a subject that is insufficiently treated in text books due to recent developments, and each student writes a review of the subject (approx. 6 pages). The subjects of the essays are outlined in advance by the teachers, and students will be given one literature review on each subject as a starting point for further literature searches. On the basis of this, the students choose a subject that they find to be of particular importance and interest. Essay supervision by the teachers will be scheduled and consists of 2 mandatory sessions of 30 min each during the first 6 weeks of the course. All literature reviews selected as starting points by the teachers will be collected in a compendium, which will serve as curriculum for the exam. Two weeks are reserved for preparation to the exam, including Q/A sessions and oral presentations by the students.



MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Bioinformatics
MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Biology with a minor subject
MSc Programme in Molecular Biomedicine

Learning outcome

RNA plays a central role in most key aspects of cellular life. The course will cover some of the basic properties of RNA relating to structure, folding, protein binding and catalysis. The course will also give students a thorough introduction to new aspects of RNA biology stemming from the recently discovered pervasive transcription of genomes into different kinds of untranslated RNAs (also known as non-coding RNAs), the explosion in knowledge on the importance of modified nucleotides, and the realization that protein-RNA complexes have unique biophysical properties that allow them to condensate into liquid phases distinct from the aqueous cellular environment. Other important elements of the course are invited lectures with leading Danish scientists in the field and the writing of a short essay on a selected RNA topic.


At the conclusion of the course, the students should be able to:

  • Understand the principles of RNA structure and discuss how the structure relate to function.

  • Outline the biogenesis and functions of mRNAs, miRNAs, piRNAs, bacterial small RNAs including CRISPR RNAs, snoRNAs, rRNAs, tRNAs, long noncoding RNAs and discuss the functional relevance of these different RNAs.

  • Give examples of how RNA Biology is applied in academic and commercial research.


At the conclusion of the course, the students should be able to:

  • Identify relevant articles from the primary literature to a given subject related to RNA Biology.
  • Write a short and concise essay on a subject within RNA Biology.


At the conclusion of the course, the students should be able to:

  • Identify and communicate key points on a subject within RNA Biology and present these in written and oral form.
  • Formulate questions to and give constructive feedback on projects presented by other students.

See Absalon.

The course is open to students at the master level and others with a relevant background in molecular biology such as students in their final year at the bachelor level.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Oral examination, 30 min.
Type of assessment details
Each student is required to write an essay in collaboration with 2 other students. All the essays will be collected in a compendium.

The exam is oral for each student individually and consists of a short presentation/discussion of one review randomly chosen from the compendium. Next the student will get some questions on their own essay, followed by questions in the topics covered in the Meister RNA Biology textbook and in the lectures. These questions will generally not relate to specific details such as the names of protein etc., but rather be focused on concepts and overall mechanisms.

The written essay will count 1/3 and the oral examination 2/3 of the final grade. The grade is given based on an overall assessment of the written assignment and the oral exam.
All aids allowed

Written assignment: All aids allowed

Oral exam: One page with notes

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

The same as the ordinary exam.
The essay must be handed in prior to the reexam.
The essay from the ordinary exam can be handed in again.

Criteria for exam assessment

In order to obtain the grade 12 the student should convincingly and accurately demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competences described under Learning Outcome.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 26
  • Class Instruction
  • 9
  • Preparation
  • 126,5
  • Theory exercises
  • 3
  • Project work
  • 40
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 1
Minimum number of participants is 12 and maximum 42.
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Department of Biology
  • Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Peter Brodersen   (10-584a7a776c6d7a7b6d76486a717736737d366c73)

Jan Christiansen, Henrik Nielsen.

Saved on the 10-05-2023

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