Microbial Evolution and Cell Biology

The students should have a background in biology and biochemistry and be interested in learning more about single-celled organisms. Apart from students with background in evolutionary biology, molecular cell biology, ecology, marine biology, microbiology, biochemistry, developmental biology, etc., the course can be taken also by out-of-field students who would like to get a glimpse of evolution of life and microbial diversity.
Most of the genetic, cellular, and biochemical diversity of life rests within single-celled organisms, prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) and microbial eukaryotes (protists). Bacteria and archaea not only account for over 3.5 billion years of evolution, but also played a crucial role in the origin of the first eukaryotic-like (protist) cells approximately two billion years ago. However, most of our knowledge about evolution and cell biology (and how we frame it) comes from a small subset of eukaryotic diversity -- multicellular animals and plants. During the course, we will take a broad view of the immense diversity of single-celled organisms (both prokaryotes and eukaryotes), focusing on their evolution, ecology, genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology. We will explore their evolutionary history and highlight major cellular innovations that occurred in single-celled organisms during the evolution of life.
The successful student will be able to describe differences in evolution and cell biology of single-celled organisms as opposed to multicellular organisms. The course is designed partly to fix biases that students often acquire from working with ‘model organisms’ that are mostly multicellular (animals and plants) and partly to showcase the immense diversity of microorganisms. It is thus not a traditional microbiology course, but it rather focuses on selected broadly interesting aspects of microbial evolution and cell biology such as major evolutionary transitions and cellular innovations. The students should gain knowledge about the evolutionary ‘baggage’ from our single-celled history that constrains the functioning of any modern cell, and be able to apply the knowledge in their own projects.
Prerequisites or Prior Knowledge

Basic understanding of evolutionary and cell biology at the undergraduate level is assumed. The following courses offered at OIST are recommended to students who first want to review their knowledge: Molecular Biology of the Cell (B27) and Evolution (B37) [or Molecular Evolution (B23)].