This course aims to provide students with the basic knowledge of fundamental characteristics of living organisms. In particular, it aims to provide students with the basic knowledge of fundamental biological structures - biological molecules, cells, tissues - and their functioning.
At the end of the course, students will gain knowledge of the main inorganic and organic components of living organisms, nucleic acid and protein synthesis and related basic regulation, the main functions of nucleic acids and proteins, and transmission of information from DNA to proteins, both in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Students will also gain knowledge of the molecular organization and functions of subcellular organelles and membrane systems in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells as well as cell division processes of eukaryotic cells.
General characteristics and principles of classification of living beings. Kingdoms: Bacteria, Archaea, Protista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia. Biodiversity and the origin of life. Chemical composition of living matter. Chemical bonds. Structure and function of biological macromolecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. The DNA as the hereditary material. General remarks on eukaryotic gene structure. From genes to proteins: transcription, processing of RNAs, and translation. Energy and metabolism. Matter and energy flux through living matter. Chemoautotrophic, photoautotrophic, and heterotrophic organisms. Nature and properties of enzymes as biological catalysts. The concept of metabolic pathway. Bioenergetics (general remarks) and metabolic compartmentalization. Energy-carrier molecules and coupled reactions. The eukaryotic cell and its compartmentalization. Comparison between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Unicellular and multi-cellular organisms. General aspects of bacteria and viruses and their interactions with eukaryotic cells.
Structure and functions of the eukaryotic cell. General aspects of methods for studying cells and tissues. Biological membranes: chemical composition, structure and functions of plasma membrane. Transport mechanisms across membranes. Fundamentals of cell communication and signaling. The nucleus. Chromatin and chromosomes. The system of intracellular membranes: the nuclear envelope, the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi apparatus. Intracellular compartments and transport. The cytoskeleton. The mitochondria: structure and functions. Lysosomes and peroxysomes. Extracellular matrix. Junctions between cells; the organisation of cells in tissues. Interaction of organisms with the external environment. Eukaryotic cell reproduction: the cell cycle and its control. Uncontrolled cell proliferation: cancer. Comparison between somatic and germinal cells through processes of mitosis and meiosis. General aspects of mechanisms of fertilisation. Early phases of embryo development.
Practical courses and seminars: DNA replication: the Meselson-Stahl experiment. Introduction to biology laboratory Rudiments of light and fluorescence microscopy. Viewing of living cells in culture and of fixed and stained cells by light microscopy.