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Module BSX-3154:
Attack and Defence in Plants

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Anil Shirsat

Overall aims and purpose

This module aims to: 1. Give students an appreciation and understanding of the strategies that plants use to cope with external challenges such as pathogen and pest attack. 2. Give students an appreciation of cutting-edge current research into plant molecular biology by discussing ongoing research within SBS.

Course content

The strategies that plants employ to respond to biotic and abiotic stresses are currently the subject of intensive research, much of it at the molecular level. This module examines how higher plants cope with external challenges such as pathogen and pest attack by initiating specific gene expression programmes that act to minimise and overcome the effects of the stress. Topics covered include changes in cell wall protein composition in response to wounding and mechanical stress; the synthesis of phytoalexins; the role jasmonate, systemin, and salicylic acid play in localised and systemic responses; the induction of the systemic acquired resistance response and the use of transgenics to unravel the function of extensin cell wall proteins within the plant. The course will be illustrated with examples of ongoing research that is currently in progress within SBS.

Assessment Criteria


To gain a good mark of 60% or above the student must additionally be able to provide a wide range of appropriate examples when responding to unseen questions.


To gain a mark of 70% or above, the student must show a comprehensive understanding of the lecture material, the answer should be well organised and to the point, and examples from additional reading (not part of the course) should be provided. This answer should give the impression of the student being an authority on the subject.


A threshold mark equates to basic understanding of the lecture material and knowledge of at least parts of the underlying experimental evidence.

Learning outcomes

  1. Appreciate that the complexity of plant defence responses is a consequence of variations of gene expression.

  2. Research the most recent topics in plant defense and prepare a presentation.

  3. Appreciate that plant defence responses are varied and complex and differentiated in timing.

  4. Demonstrate knowledge of the major pathways involved in plant defence and how they can be studied at the molecular level.

  5. Demonstrate an integrated understanding of the response of the plant to pathogen and pest attack.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Exam 100

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Fourteen lectures dealing with aspects of plant defense against pathogens, pests and wounding

Private study

Students should study the Powerpoint presentations and read the online research papers which are integral to understanding this module. Students will also be directed to the relevant primary literature, book sections and internet resources, which they will be expected to read during the allotted private study time

Study group

Students will be given a topic related to plant defense and be expected to review the literature and prepare a presentation. The material presented must be new i.e not already covered in the lectures.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Engagement with current subject developments and their application.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Demonstrate the independence and skills required for continuing professional development


Resource implications for students


Talis Reading list

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: