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Molecular Virology of RNA Viruses


Admission requirements

  • Students should be familiar with the structure and function of DNA, RNA and proteins including basic knowledge about their biosynthesis (DNA replication, RNA transcription and protein translation). To obtain the required level, students should have studied the relevant parts of a major textbook in molecular biology, like for instance “Molecular Biology of the Cell” by Alberts et al. (6th edition; Chapter 4 - DNA, chromosomes, and genomes; Chapter 5 - DNA replication, repair and recombination; Chapter 6 - How cells read the genome: from DNA to Protein; Chapter 12 - Intracellular compartments and protein sorting; Chapter 13 - Intracellular membrane traffic).

  • Students should have a general theoretical knowledge about manipulating cells and DNA. To obtain the required level students should have studied the relevant parts of a major textbook. The following chapters from “Molecular Biology of the Cell” can serve as an example of the required study material: Chapter 8 - Analyzing cells, molecules, and systems; Chapter 9 - Visualizing cells.

  • Students should be familiar with the general concepts of virology as they are taught in the LUMC course “Infectious Agents and Immunity” and summarized in Chapter 14 section 1 and 6 of “Biochemistry” by Campbell and Farrell.

  • Students should be familiar with the use of basic laboratory equipment like (micro)pipettes, electrophoresis equipment, (micro)centrifuges, biosafety cabinets, etc.

  • Some experiments in the course involve the handling of (small amounts of) radioactivity. Students will receive detailed on-site instructions on radiological safety and handling of radio-isotopes before these experiments are started.

Recommended knowledge:

  • The practical part of the course involves handling of infectious material (viruses) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Therefore general knowledge and skills in how to handle infectious material and GMOs is recommended. The required knowledge and skills can be obtained in the LUMC course “Infectious Agents and Immunity” or an equivalent course in (medical) microbiology.


Period: 25 October 2021 - 19 November 2021

RNA viruses constitute a major group of pathogens and can infect all living organisms, including humans, as the ongoing SARS-coronavirus-2 pandemic has made painfully clear. They are unique, not only for having an RNA genome, but also because of their high mutation frequency, evolutionary potential, diverse replication mechanisms and intricate strategies to exploit the infrastructure of the infected host cell. This Master course focuses on the molecular biology and the different strategies that RNA viruses use for their genome replication, gene expression and virion production. A significant part of the course consists of practical work that is mainly based on the use of a (completely biosafe) mouse coronavirus. Students will become familiar with various virological and molecular biological techniques to detect, quantify and purify viruses and acquire skills to study viral genes and gene products. During the practical work, students will work in couples and the materials generated in one experiment will be required for the next experiment(s).
Although the emphasis is on viruses with an RNA genome, many general virological principles will be discussed. A textbook and workgroups (including assignments) will guide the students through the theoretical part of the course. In addition, a reader containing protocols and selected additional information will be provided. A number of seminars by guest speakers are scheduled throughout the course to highlight some of the major topics in current virology. At the end of the course, the students will have to present the outcome of their experiments and take a written exam covering the textbook, the experiments and seminar contents

This course will particularly work on:

Research competences:
Integrating different biomedical disciplines; practical skills; recording, organizing and analyzing data.

Professional competences:
Commitment; motivation and drive; collaborating with peers; respecting the rules of the group.

Course objectives

The student:

  • Is able to describe the molecular aspects of the RNA virus replication cycle (virus entry, gene expression, replication, particle assembly and release).

  • Is able to describe the techniques that are used to detect, purify and quantitate virus particles and to study viral proteins and/or nucleic acids and/or gene expression.

  • Is able to describe the characteristics and potential use of different RNA virus-based expression vectors.

  • Is able to deduce a model (on aspects) of an RNA virus replication cycle or virus particle structure, based on experimental results.

  • Is able to design and execute experiments (including controls) that yield information on various aspects of the replication cycle and structure of RNA viruses.

  • Critically discusses the data obtained from experiments performed during the course, as well as those performed by others, for a professionally educated audience.

  • Presents and defends experimental data obtained during the course for a professionally educated audience.

  • Demonstrates a professional attitude in the laboratory and workgroups by being on time, showing motivation, participating and cooperating with peers constructively and sticking to the applicable rules.


All course and group schedules are published on our LUMC scheduling website or on the LUMC scheduling app.

Mode of instruction

Self-study assignments, work groups, practicals, demonstration experiments, seminars, presentations by students, written exam.

Assessment method

Summative assessment:

  • A. Study performance during practical and work groups (30%)

  • B. Presentation on experimental work (20%)

  • C. Written exam (50%)

The exam dates can be found on the schedule website.

Reading list

Will be distributed during the course.


Registration for FOS courses, H2W, Scientific Conduct, Course on Lab Animal Sciences and CRiP takes place in lottery rounds in the beginning of July. After the lottery rounds: if you want to register for a course you are kindly asked to contact the student administration at