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Advanced methods and techniques in plant science and biotechnology (2016)

ECTS credits: 5


Course parameters:
Language: English
Level of course: PhD and master course
Time of year: Summer 2016 August 15th –August 26th (Week 33 and 34)
No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: Whole day lab course of approximate 10 hours a day plus a written take home assignment project, to be handed in no later than two weeks from the end of the course.
Capacity limits: max 16 participants


Objective of the Course:

The Danish and global plant production is facing major challenges. The rapid population growth, the increased consumption of animal products and the use of crops for energy purposes demand an increased production. In addition, climate change is expected to have pronounced effects on plant production. At the same time there is also a strong wish among the public that future plant production can take place with minimal applications of pesticides and fertilizers. In effect, plant production is developing into a far more dynamic and demanding scenario in the food-, feed-, non-food-, and bioenergy area.  Plant biotechnology is expected to play a major role in meeting the demands created by this scenario through knowledge on plant genomes, advanced molecular breeding and development of genetic modified organisms (GMO).

The course intends to provide the students with experience in advanced molecular techniques used in modern plant science and biotechnology through an intensive two week course.

The course will cover state of the art techniques and methods within plant biotechnology research, including the genetic basis of several important plant properties and the use of molecular genetics and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Through the course, the student will gain an understanding of the practical use of and theory behind the newest techniques within the field of plant science and will be able to employ that knowledge to solve problems within agricultural plant production through biotechnological approaches.

The course will be relevant for students who wish a practical introduction to the newest techniques and theory within plant science and biotechnology, and who wish to understand the potentials of these techniques in future plant production.


Learning outcomes and competences:
Completing this course, the student is expected to be able to:

  • Understand and employ advanced technologies in plant biotechnology such as genetic modification and molecular genetics.
  • Have gained practical hand-on experience with advanced techniques and equipment within plant science and biotechnology.
  • Understand and employ bioinformatics and statistical tools in plant biotechnology.
  • Plan and conduct experiments within plant biotechnology.
  • Develop strategies and models to solve problems relating to plant biotechnology by using fundamental principles in plant biotechnology and genetics.
  • Explain the use of biotechnology in plant breeding.
  • Put into perspective and discuss the potentials of plant biotechnology and breeding for achieving a sustainable agriculture, nationally and internationally.



Compulsory programme:
A minimum of 90 % presence at the theoretical and practical lessons is required to obtain the course diploma. A written take home assignment is compulsive to the course.


Course contents:
The course Exercises will have the following headlines:

  1. Gene expression analysis
  2. Laser micro-dissection
  3. Plant transformation
  4. Phytase enzyme assay
  5. Protein expression in Pichia Pastoris
  6. Plant cross analysis
  7. Barley storage proteins analysis
  8. Carbohydrates in grain

The course will cover the following elements:

  • Transformation/genetic modification of crop plants, including
    • direct (particle bombardment) and indirect (Agrobacterium) introduction of DNA,
    • tissue culture and selection systems,
    • characterization of genetic modified plants using advanced PCR, western blots, enzyme assays and analysis of offspring.
    • Microdissection of plant tissues including:
      • cryo sectioning
      • laser-based ablation.
      • DNA and RNA isolation from micro dissected tissues.
    • Advanced gene expression studies including:
      • RNA isolation.
      • cDNA synthesis.
      • qPCR using SYBR Green and TaqMan probes.
      • Data analysis.
    • Practical use of reporter genes for localization of gene products.
    • Plant protein expression, purification and characterization including:
      • theory and practice on transformation of Pichia pastoris.
      • fermentation.
      • biochemical purification from native and recombinant sources.
      • biochemical characterization.
      • UPLC/MS and interpretation of mass spectra and peptide mapping.

Technologies that cannot be covered by the practical exercises will be treated in lectures and theoretical exercises, e.g.:

  • Metabolic engineering of plant quality traits such as mineral- and protein content, carbohydrate composition.
  • Cisgenesis, where only the plants own genes are used in developing GMO.
  • Molecular based breeding methods, including selection based on phenotype and genotype.
  • Mutagenesis using the TALEN system.
  • Molecular genetic methods within genomics and transcriptomics, and development of DNA markers, including functional markers.
  • Bioinformatic and statistical tools to handle complex parameters and dataset in plant genetics and breeding, including genetic mapping, QTL-analysis and association studies.
  • Genomic selection in plant breeding.

The theoretical parts of the course will cover the following aspects of modern plant science and biotechnology:

  • The plant genome and the genetic basis of different characters.
  • Goals for plant biotechnology.
  • Aspects for society


The students are expected to have to have a basic theoretical and practical knowledge in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Biotechnology.


Name of lecturers:
Course responsible: Søren Borg
Per Gregersen
Henrik Brinch-Pedersen
Kim Hebelstrup
Torben Asp
Eva Vince
Inger Holme
Giuseppe Dionisio
Additional teachers to be announced


Type of course/teaching methods:

The course will be planned as a mix of practical and theoretical exercises and lectures

The teaching will exploit problem-orientated teaching based on case studies within plant biotechnology and breeding.


A lab manual will be provided and relevant articles will be announced prior to the course.


Course assessment:
A maximum 15 page report based on the practical exercises will be compulsory to the course. The report is assessed based on the Danish 7-point grading scale and has to be handed in no later than two weeks from the end of the course.


Crop Genetics and Biotechnology, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University.


Special comments on this course:
The course is part of the summer university at Aarhus University. Help for accommodation can be organized and a social program will be included.


Summer 2016 August 15th – August 26th (Week 33 and 34)


The course venue is Research Centre Flakkebjerg, situated in Southwest Zealand, 10 km south of Slagelse and 100 km west of Copenhagen.


Deadline for registration is 31th of May 2016. Information regarding admission will be sent out no later than two days later.

Registration can for AU students be done through the regular AU course catalogue.

The course will also be announced as a AU summer university course and students can register from there.


Or contact course responsible Søren Borg, Direct phone number +45 87 15 82 83, e-mail:

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Revised 05.11.2018