Environmental biochemistry and microbiology

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
BIO/10 BIO/19
Learning objectives
The course aims to train the student on the structure, function and interaction of biomolecules, with particular reference to: i) metabolic processes and their regulation mechanisms; ii) information translation mechanisms, from informational molecules to cellular functions; iii) modalities of degradation of complex molecules and energy generation.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course the student will know: i) the general bases of bacterial biochemistry that will be used to understand concepts related to higher cellular mechanisms, ii) the principles relating to the engineering of microorganisms for industrial or bioremediation purposes, ii) the principles related to symbioses and interactions between organisms.
The course will allow the student to acquire competences related to various methodologies and basic instrumentations for biochemical analysis relating to biochemical techniques for monitoring environmental pollutants, energy production and bioremediation.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
More detailed information regarding the lesson formats for the forthcoming academic year 2021/22 will be provided over the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation.
Course syllabus
At the end of the Biochemistry course, the student will be able to describe:
-the four main biomolecule classes that constitute the cell (nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids)
- the main interactions that govern biomolecular interactions, bioenergetics and acid-base and pH.
- the four levels of protein structural organization, their different roles in the cell
- the general properties of enzymes, key catalytic mechanisms and modes of regulation (inhibition and activation).
- Carbohydrates and oxidative metabolism and fermentation processes.
- lipid and nitrogen metabolism.
- Photosynthesis
- Biochemical techniques for studying DNA and proteins

When possible, each topic will be linked to environmental aspects.

At the end of the Environmental Microbiology course, the student will know how to describe:
- The structure and function of prokaryotic cells:
· Cell membrane and cell wall
· Bacterial DNA: genome, plasmids and horizontal gene transfer
· Cell replication
· Transcription and examples of mechanisms controlling gene expression (nutrient-based regulation, quorum sensing)
- Microorganisms in the environment:
· Spores and bacterial biofilms
· Energy metabolism and brief overview of biogeochemical cycles (carbon and nitrogen)
· Molecular taxonomy, overview of Next generation sequencing techniques and metagenomics for studying microbial communities in the environment.
· Interactions between microorganisms, plants, and animals: symbiosis and parasitism
· Examples of applied environmental microbiology: bioremediation

All topics will be treated, whenever possible, in an environmental perspective.
Prerequisites for admission
Teaching methods
Lessons consist of frontal lectures supported by projected material. Students will be stimulated to participate actively to the lesson/discussions. Attendance is strongly encouraged to permit active student-teacher exchange and productive discussions.
The biochemistry part of the course will be supported by optional online quizzes (via the Microsoft Teams platform) at the end of each lesson and animations. All materials will be made available on the Ariel course website.
Teaching Resources
- Biochemistry: Molecole e metabolismo (Editore Pearson). Autori: Dean R. Appling, Spencer J. Anthony-Cahill and Christopher K. Matthews
- Introduzione alla biochimica di Lehninger (Editore Zanichelli). Autori: Davide L. Nelson, Michael M. Cox.

Preparation for the exam concerning Environmental microbiology can be done without a specific text. Scientific articles used for the course will be available at the end of each lesson. However, as a reference, students can use the following book:

- Biologia dei microrganismi (Casa Editrice Ambrosiana). Authors: Gianni Dehò e Enrica Galli
Assessment methods and Criteria
Each part of the course (biochemistry and environmental microbiology) will contribute equally to the overall grade in the final written exam. The biochemistry part of the exam consists of 30 multiple choice questions to assess global understanding of the whole course, and two open questions to assess a more specific understanding of core course topics. The environmental microbiology part will be evaluated in the same way.
Environmental biochemistry
BIO/10 - BIOCHEMISTRY - University credits: 0
BIO/19 - MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 24 hours
Environmental microbioloy
BIO/10 - BIOCHEMISTRY - University credits: 0
BIO/19 - MICROBIOLOGY - University credits: 0
Lessons: 24 hours
Professor: Rossi Elio
Educational website(s)
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