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Virology I: How Viruses Work

Columbia University via Coursera

3 Reviews 422 students interested

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This introductory virology course emphasizes the common reactions that must be completed by all viruses for successful reproduction within a host cell and survival and spread within a host population. The molecular basis of alternative reproductive cycles are presented with examples drawn from a set of representative animal and human viruses, although selected bacterial viruses will be discussed.

This offering has been a top-ten iTunes U Course in sciences pretty much since its release in 2012, with over 80,000 subscriptions. The course will be ported to the Coursera platform in two parts and will allow interested online students to take the course as a cohort for the first time.


Week 1
Welcome to virology
What is a virus?
Viruses then and now
Week 2
The infectious cycle
Assay of viral infectivity
Measurement of virions and their components
Revolutionary methods
One-step growth cycle
Week 3
The Baltimore scheme
DNA virus genomes
RNA virus genomes
Viral genetics
Week 4
The tools of structural virology
Helical symmetry
Icosahedral symmetry
Enveloped virions
Complex virions
Week 5
Attachment to cells
Entry into cells
Acid-catalyzed fusion
A new paradigm for entry
Entry of non-enveloped virions
Entering the nucleus
Week 6
Viral RNA synthesis
RNA polymerization
Plus strand RNA synthesis
Negative strand RNA synthesis
RNA synthesis of dsRNA genomes
RNA synthesis as a source of diversity
Week 7
DNA basics
Lessons from SV40
Priming via DNA or protein
Viral origins
Big DNA viruses
Regulation of DNA synthesis
Week 8
Initiation of transcription
Viral transcription regulation
Capping and polyadenylation
Pre-mRNA splicing
Week 9
Reverse transcriptase
Reverse transcription
The provirus
Hepatitis B virus
Week 10
End-dependent initiation of protein synthesis
Other decoding mechanisms
One mRNA, one protein?
Maximizing coding capacity of the viral genome
Regulation of translation: eIF2alpha
How viruses regulate cell translation
Week 11
Principles of virion assembly
Getting to the right place
Making sub-assemblies
Concerted assembly: Budding
Genome packaging
Acquisition of an envelope and egress

Taught by

Vincent Racaniello

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Reviews for Coursera's Virology I: How Viruses Work
3.7 Based on 3 reviews

  • 5 stars 67%
  • 4 star 0%
  • 3 star 0%
  • 2 star 0%
  • 1 star 33%

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  • 1
John S
5.0 5 years ago
John completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
This is an amazing course taught by a leading virologist who is clearly very passionate about viruses, and his passion is contagious. I didn't realize how interesting and varied viruses were until I took this class (I also recommend virology II, how viruses cause disease), and I'm now quite fond of them. Having said that, this is a challenging course. Because it involves molecular biology, there are a number of genes, acronyms, and molecules that you are required to know. Expect a little bit of frustration from that, but the class more than makes up for it.
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Jeza A
1.0 2 years ago
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Jonathan G
5.0 4 years ago
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