A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
This course aims to provide the student with the foundation of the structure/function of biomembranes to understand how a cell communicates with the extracellular environment. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding the molecular, biochemical and biophysical concepts underlying membrane excitability. Students will receive also examples on the techniques used to study the function/structure of membrane lipids and proteins.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course students will:
1. Be able to describe the structure, organization and biogenesis of biological membranes. Explain how the physico-chemical properties of lipids and proteins contribute to the dynamic nature of biological membranes.
2. Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the main characteristics of membrane proteins and their roles in membrane structure, transport and signaling.
3. Gain a critical understanding of the thermodynamics underlying these mechanisms.
4. Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the arious methods and techniques used to study membranes.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
Course syllabus
Several aspects of membrane biophysics. The role of lipid and protein components. Membrane microdomains and lipid-protein interactions.
Structural and functional features of membrane proteins with respect to transmembrane domains and the presence of alpha helix and/or beta sheets. Structure-function relationships. Function determination via structural homology analysis. Functional domains: homo- and heteromultimers.
Membrane specializations: t-tubules, neuromuscolar junctions
Membrane excitability, the membrane as a RC circuit.
The multifunctions of membrane proteins. Channel-type behaviour of transport proteins. Protein translocation between the cell membrane and cytoplasm in different cellular conditions. Methods used for the characterization of membrane proteins.
Examples of membrane transports mediated by carrier proteins, ion channels, V-ATPases, P-ATPases, in animal and plant cells will be discussed.
Papers related to the topics described will be analyzed.
Prerequisites for admission
Students are expected to have basic knowledge of cellular physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and membrane biology.
Teaching methods
Interactive frontal lessons, where students are encouraged to attend and to actively participate. Assigned papers to be discussed by students in small groups or singularly. Presented materials will be made available through the ARIEL website.
Teaching Resources
A short list of review papers will be available on the course web-page together with links to useful websites. A selection of papers suitable for the student presentations will be also made available. Textbook: B. Hille; Ion channels of excitable membranes; Sinauer ed.
Assessment methods and Criteria
he exam consists of two equal parts:
part 1: oral test assessing the topics addressed during first part of the course
part 2: presentation of a scientific paper and discussion of the results in the context of the topics addressed in the course.
BIO/09 - PHYSIOLOGY - University credits: 6
Lessons: 48 hours
Educational website(s)
to be arranged by email
Torre A 6th floor