Course Identification

Raising and killing the messengers: The post-transcriptional fate of mRNAs and other long RNAs

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Prof. Igor Ulitsky

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Sunday, 14:15 - 16:00

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences: Seminar; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points


Location: Ullmann 324.





Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation


Grade Type

Pass / Fail

Grade Breakdown (in %)

Weekly reading + sending questions + Final assignment

Evaluation Type

Final assignment

Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The information for creating proteins is stored in cells in the form of DNA, but the genome remains a useless blueprint without transcription into messenger RNA molecules (mRNAs) and other, less well understood long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs). This process is subjected to extensive regulatory processes, which are critical in order to ensure precise expression of the specific repertoire of proteins establishing cell-type–specific identity. Some of the most fascinating forms of regulation are applied to mRNA following transcription, and these have dramatic effects on the identity and the quantity of the protein that will eventually be produced. These regulatory pathways have not only been implicated as the molecular mechanisms underlying multiple human diseases, but are also increasingly adopted as a strategy for therapeutic intervention. In this course we will explore all the major points of control during the life trajectory of an mRNA, and discuss the functional outcomes of their impairment. Topics will include splicing, polyadenylation, export from the nucleus, localization to cellular bodies, translation, and decay. We will also discuss RNAi and its therapeutic uses, and long noncoding RNAs that do no encode proteins. We will learn about both traditional and cutting edge approaches for studying the transcriptome at different resolutions, as well as computational and statistical methods for interpreting the data they generate. Emphasis will be put on designing and critically interpreting experiments. 

We expect to cover the following topics (typically one topic a week):

  • Constitutive and alternative splicing 
  • Determination of 3' ends by cleavage and polyadenylation
  • Export from nucleus to cytosol
  • mRNA degradation
  • Nonsense mediated decay
  • mRNA localization in the cytoplasm
  • Translational control
  • RNA interference
  • RNA editing and other modifications
  • Long noncoding RNAs and their deviations from mRNAs
  • Circular RNAs
  • Processing of long RNAs into microRNAs and other small RNAs

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate broad familiarity with research topics and open questions in RNA field
  2. Discuss both traditional and high-throughput methods for studying RNAs
  3. Demonstrate improved skills in critically evaluating scientific papers

Reading List

The main goal of this course is to familiarize students with reading, analyzing and critically evaluating scientific papers while learning about the post transcriptional regulation of mRNA genes. The course will convene weekly to discuss two original research papers from the scientific literature about mRNA and lncRNA metabolism. Each week, students should thoroughly read the assigned papers prior to the day of the class and be prepared to discuss them in detail and prepare and submit 2-3 questions about the papers to the instructor, each week. The course will cover multiple steps in the post-transcriptional trajectory of mRNA molecules in eukaryotic cells and will emphasize experimental and analytical aspects of traditional and cutting-edge techniques. To prepare for the following week's reading, a short introduction will be presented by the instructor at the end of each session. At the end of the course, the students will prepare and submit a 2 page final assignment (a research plan for a study on mRNAs or lncRNAs).