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Microbiology Learning Framework

Society Learning Goals Articles Sample Learning Objectives
How is the evolutionary relatedness of organisms best reflected in phylogenetic trees?
  • List the three Domains of the phylogenetic tree of life. State a unique characteristic of each Domain.
  • List two features of a useful molecular/evolutionary clock.
  • Explain what features of 16S rRNA make it useful to compare the evolutionary relationship between organisms.
  • Determine the two most related and two least related organisms from a short list of 16S rRNA sequences.
  • Draw inferences about evolutionary relatedness of organisms based on phylogenetic trees.
Why is the traditional concept of species not readily applicable to microbes due to asexual reproduction and the frequent occurrence of horizontal gene transfer?
  • Describe the general process of sexual reproduction, and how it relates to the definition of species in eukaryotic organisms.
  • Describe the general process of asexual reproduction/binary fission.
  • Describe the concept of a species with regard to a core genome and genomic islands.
  • Explain why the traditional definitions of species using reproductive isolation do not apply to Bacteria and Archaea.
  • Bacterial and archaeal species are often defined as bacteria exhibiting more than 70% DNA hybridization among strains. Discuss one benefit and one problem of this definition of the species.
How do humans impact on the environment influence the evolution of microorganisms (e.g., emerging diseases and the selection of antibiotic resistance)?
  • Define the term nosocomial infection.
  • Define the term emergent disease.
  • Distinguish between the terms endemic, epidemic, and pandemic.
  • Describe two human practices (in medicine and agriculture) that have led to the increase of antibiotic resistance (e.g., antibiotics in feed, stopping antibiotic therapy too soon, repeated use of the same antibiotic).
  • Describe two human practices that have led to the development of dead zones in bays or oceans.
  • Give an example of a disease that has emerged due to human activities, and state what those human activities were (e.g., AIDS, Ebola virus, bird flu, Lyme disease, etc.).
  • Explain how public health policies (e.g., quarantine and vaccination) can alter epidemic/pandemic progression.
  • Explain how not completing a full treatment of antibiotics can lead to an increase in resistance in a bacterial population.
How have mutations and horizontal gene transfer, with immense variety of microenvironments, selected for a huge diversity of microorganisms?
  • List three mechanisms of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria.
  • State two processes by which mutations can occur.
  • Describe how mutations and horizontal gene transfer, together with selective pressure, can lead to a rise of antibiotic resistance (or xenobiotic bioremediation).
  • Give an example of a bacterial pathogen that devolved naturally or artificially to become attenuated (e.g., vaccine strains, intracellular pathogens, etc.). Support the example with evidence.
  • Analyze and interpret sequence data to determine if horizontal gene transfer, mutation, or recombination has occurred.
  • Give an example of a trait (e.g., N2 fixation, pathogenicity island, type III secretion, etc.) that is found in diverse bacteria, and provide evidence that explains how that trait came to be.
How did cells, organelles (e.g., mitochondria and chloroplasts), and all major metabolic pathways evolve from early prokaryotic cells?
  • Define endosymbiotic theory with respect to mitochondria and chloroplasts.
  • Explain why glycolysis, the pentose phosphate pathway, and the tricarboxylic (Krebs) cycle are so highly conserved in living cells (e.g., 12 essential precursors and energy).
  • State at least two characteristics that all living cells share (e.g., membrane, DNA, and metabolism).
  • Describe the evidence that supports the theory that mitochondria evolved from bacteria.
  • Describe the evidence that supports the theory that chloroplasts evolved from cyanobacteria.


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