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Molecular Aspects of RNA Viruses (MRV)


Admission requirements

Elective course in MSc Life Science and Technology and MSc Chemistry
For students with a BSc in LST, MST, BFW, Biology or equivalent. Students must have followed the course Molecular Genetics I or a similar course dealing with basic aspects of replication, transcription and translation, DNA, RNA and protein structure.


The course deals with the fundamental aspects of virus replication with emphasis on RNA viruses. Topics addressed include discovery and classification of viruses, virus structure, viral entry pathways, translation and replication strategies, encapsidation, egress and evolution. These topics are illustrated by examples of HIV, influenza virus, coronavirus, poliovirus, plant viruses and bacterial viruses. Anti-viral strategies and applications are also discussed. First part of the course deals with lectures on the important steps in the viral life cycle and is concluded by the writing of an essay about one virus. The second part discusses several viruses in more detail including ways to study their replication and evolution. This part is concluded by three assignments dealing with the effect of a mutation on the replication of three viruses from diverse backgrounds.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students

  • have knowledge of fundamental principles of virology

  • know the basis of virus classification and be able to sketch the important steps in the viral life cycle.

  • can deduce of symmetry number of virus particles.

  • understand the various tricks that viruses use to express their genes.

  • know how to study and manipulate RNA viruses.

  • know how to tackle and interfere with viral replication.

  • are able to predict the effect of certain mutations on the replication of a virus and how to test this prediction experimentally.

  • are able to digest scientific papers on the topic of viruses and write a summary or essay.


Schedule information can be found on the website of the programmes.

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Open source exam devoted to one single virus addressing all the steps in its life cycle (50%) and two home assignments on two other viruses (50%). The viruses are allocated to students by a lottery system.

Reading list

Principles of Virology: Molecular Biology, Pathogenesis, and Control of Animal Viruses, 2nd Edition. S. J. Flint, L. W. Enquist, V. R. Racaniello, A. M. Skalka. (optional)
Powerpoint presentation is posted on Brightspace after each lecture.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Dr. René Olsthoorn


Assignment deadlines are communicated via Brightspace.

According to OER article 4.8, students are entitled to view their marked examination for a period of 30 days following the publication of the results of a written examination. Students should contact the lecturer to make an appointment for such an inspection session.