Virology Course 2015


Virology – Biology W3310/4310

Spring 2015

viral video

This Columbia University virology course is offered each year in the spring semester.

Prerequisite: Two semesters of a rigorous, molecularly-oriented Introductory Biology course (such as C2005), or the Instructor’s permission (

Course Name: Virology
Sessions: M, W 4:10 – 5:25 PM
Start date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Points: 3
Location: Northwest Corner 501
Course #: Biology W3310.001 or W4310.001
Instructor: Prof. V. Racaniello


The basic thesis of the course is that all viruses adopt a common strategy. The strategy is simple:

1. Viral genomes are contained in metastable particles.

2. Genomes encode gene products that promote an infectious cycle (mechanisms for genomes to enter cells, replicate, and exit in particles).

3. Infection patterns range from benign to lethal; infections can overcome or co-exist with host defenses.

Despite the apparent simplicity, the tactics evolved by particular virus families to survive and prosper are remarkable. This rich set of solutions to common problems in host/parasite interactions provides significant insight and powerful research tools. Virology has enabled a more detailed understanding of the structure and function of molecules, cells and organisms and has provided fundamental understanding of disease and virus evolution.

The course will emphasize 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, the interactions of viruses with host organisms, and how these lead to disease are presented with examples drawn from a set of representative animal and human viruses, although selected bacterial viruses will be discussed.


The recommended textbook is Principles of Virology. Vol I: Molecular Biology, Vol. II: Pathogenesis and Control (S.J. Flint et al., Third Edition, ASM Press 2009).

Other course resources

1. Students should read Prof. Racaniello’s virology blog for information relevant to the course.

2. Students should listen to the weekly podcast “This Week in Virology”, produced by Prof. Racaniello, for additional material about viruses relevant to the course. You can subscribe to TWiV at iTunes.

3. Lecture slides (pdf) will be posted at this website before each class.

4. Videocasts of all lectures (slides plus audio) will be posted at this website.

Lecture Schedule, Spring 2015

Date Topic Reading Slides Videocast
1/21 Lecture 1: What is a virus? Flint Vol I Chp 1
€¢The virus and the virion
€¢Cell size and scale
pdf YouTube
1/26 Lecture 2: The infectious cycle Flint Vol I Chp 2
€¢Influenza virus growth in eggs
€¢Influenza hemagglutination inhibition assay
€¢The amazing cells of Henrietta Lacks
€¢The Wall of Polio
€¢Small fragments of viral nucleic acid
pdf YouTube
1/28 Lecture 3: Genomes and genetics Flint Vol I Chp 3
€¢The Baltimore scheme
pdf YouTube
2/2 Lecture 4: Structure Flint Vol I Chp 4
€¢Structure of influenza virus
€¢Virus images at ViperDB
pdf YouTube
2/4 Lecture 5: Attachment and entry Flint Vol I Chp 5
€¢Influenza virus attachment to cells
€¢Influenza virus attachment to cells: Role of different sialic acids
€¢A single amino acid change switches avian influenza H5n1 and H7N9 viruses to human receptors
€¢Molecular movies of viruses
pdf YouTube
2/9 Lecture 6: RNA directed RNA synthesis Flint Vol I Chp 6
€¢Influenza viral RNA synthesis
pdf YouTube
2/11 Lecture 7: Transcription and RNA processing Flint Vol I Chp 8 through p277 Chp 10 through p364 pdf YouTube
2/16 Lecture 8: Viral DNA replication Flint Vol I Chp 9 pdf YouTube
2/18 Exam I
2/23 Lecture 9: Reverse transcription and integration Flint Vol I Chp 7
€¢Museum pelts help date the Koala retrovirus
€¢Unexpected endogenous retroviruses
A retrovirus makes chicken eggshells blue
pdf YouTube
2/25 Lecture 10: Translation Flint Vol I Chp 11 pdf YouTube
3/2 Lecture 11: Assembly Flint Vol I Chapters 12 and 13
€¢Packaging of the segmented influenza virus genome
€¢What if influenza virus did not reassort?
pdf YouTube
3/4 Lecture 12: Infection basics Flint Vol II Chapters 1 and 2
€¢Transmission of influenza
Slow motion sneezing
Chikungunya an exotic virus on the move
Do the tropics have a flu season?
pdf YouTube
3/9 Lecture 13: Intrinsic and innate defenses Flint Vol II Chapters 3 and 4
€¢The inflammatory response
Natural antibody protects against viral infection
pdf YouTube
3/11 Lecture 14: Adaptive immunity Flint Vol II Chapter 4 pdf YouTube
3/16 Spring Recess
3/18 Spring Recess
3/23 Lecture 15: Viral virulence Flint Vol II Chapter 2
€¢Antimicrobial peptides induced by herpesvirus enhance HIV-1 infection
HIV gets the zinc finger
pdf YouTube
3/25 Lecture 16: Acute infections Flint Vol II Chapter 5
€¢Acute viral infections
Chronology of an acute infection
pdf YouTube
3/30 Lecture 17: Persistent infections Flint Vol II Chapter 5 pdf YouTube
4/1 Exam II
4/6 Lecture 18: Transformation and oncogenesis Flint Vol II Chapter 7 pdf YouTube
4/8 Lecture 19: Vaccines Flint Vol II Chapter 8
€¢Influenza virus-like particle vaccine
Poliovirus vaccine safety
pdf YouTube
4/13 Lecture 20: Antivirals Flint Vol II Chapter 9
€¢Treating hepatitis C by blocking a cellular microRNA
TWiV 270: Homeland virology (developing a smallpox antiviral)
pdf YouTube
4/15 Lecture 21: Evolution Flint Vol II Chapter 10 pp 311-333
€¢Virulence – a positive or negative trait for evolution?
Increased fidelity reduces viral fitness
pdf YouTube
4/20 Lecture 22: Emerging viruses Flint Vol II Chapter 10 pp 333-end
€¢Heartland virus disease
MERS-coronavirus in camels
pdf YouTube
4/22 Lecture 23: Unusual infectious agents Flint Vol II Appendix A
€¢Virophages engineer the ecosystem
pdf YouTube
4/27 Lecture 24: HIV and AIDS Flint Vol II Chapter 6
€¢Blocking HIV infection with two soluble receptors
pdf YouTube
4/29 Lecture 25: Ebolavirus €¢What we are not afraid to say about Ebolavirus
€¢Nobel Laureates and Ebolavirus quarantine
pdf YouTube
5/4 Lecture 26: Viral gene therapy €¢Clinical benefit of gene therapy pdf YouTube
5/11 Exam III
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