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Columbia University

Virology I: How Viruses Work

Columbia University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


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
MicroRNAs 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


4.1 rating, based on 7 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Virology I: How Viruses Work

  • John Smith
    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.
  • Anonymous
    I am semi-retired physician and I have found Dr. Racaniello's Virology course a wonderful refresher and source of new learning. His enthusiasm is infectious and his style and explanations are thorough and understandable for a novice like myself. I supplement the learning with his TWIV podcast which I highly recommend. Thank you Dr. R.
  • Profile image for Fizza Farooq
    Fizza Farooq
    Where is this course? I am virology student so this course will be quite helpful but I am unable to find one. Kindly help me with that
  • Anonymous
    It is somewhat difficult to find as a short courses alone because it is human microbiology, tiny life microorganisms which cann't be seen in our eyes except microscopes
  • Anonymous
    Hello. Can you help me. When I can do it course? This is topic very interesting for me. Can you activate this course again? Thanks.
  • Jeza Muhamad Abdul Aziz

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