Functional, Metabolic and Epigenetic Biochemistry

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Cellular homeostasis is the resultant of a complex network of chemical reactions and metabolic pathways occurring within the different organelles present in the cell and in a continuous and dynamic cross-talk. The regulation of gene expression plays a significant role in all cell regulatory activities and epigenetic modification of the DNA have a unique role in the control of specific cell functions. Deviances from natural homeostasis generally result in pathology. The aim of the course will be to familiarize the students with major intracellular potential targets of selected classes of xenobiotics and environmental stressors of chemical and physical nature and with the methodologies to be applied for the study and identification of xenobiotics potentially harmful for human health.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course students will acquire the biochemical and molecular bases that regulate metabolism and other cellular functions in different cell types and organs. In particular, students will be able to understand molecular mechanisms of regulation of metabolism in response to hormones, nutritional and environmental cues. Students will also acquire knowledge on epigenome modifications and how they are implicated in the regulation of diverse cellular processes, including metabolism, gene transcription, differentiation, cell reprogramming in health and disease and in response to environmental stimuli (e.g., xenobiotics) that may impact other generations (transgenerational effects).
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First semester
In relation to the modalities of delivery of training activities for the academic year 2021/22, more specific information will be provided in the coming months, based on the evolution of the health situation.
Course syllabus
1. Liver and its structure in relation with its functions. Metabolism and molecular
mechanisms of regulation of metabolic pathways. Glucose, lipid and amino acid
metabolism. Mevalonate pathway, cholesterol and bile acid synthesis and metabolism. Lipoprotein metabolism. Metabolism of xenobiotics.
2. Adipose tissues: "the adipose organ". Molecular mechanisms of differentiation and of metabolic functions of adipose tissues. Molecular mechanisms of lipogenesis and lipolysis. Role of factors released by adipose tissues in metabolic homeostasis.
3. Skeletal muscle and bone: metabolic features of skeletal muscle fibers. Biochemical determinants of skeletal muscle remodeling. Structure and components of the bone. Calcium metabolism. Biochemistry and metabolism of osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation and of bone remodeling. Role of factors released by skeletal muscles and bones on metabolic homeostasis.
4. Brain: metabolic functions of main brain cell populations. Regulation of glucose metabolism in neurons and astrocytes. Cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism in the brain and their functional role.
5. Regulation of metabolism. Interorgan correlations. Regulation of metabolism in response to hormones and nutritional status. Molecular mechanisms of regulation of metabolism.
6. Epigenetics and regulation. Modifications of DNA bases. Histone modifications. Epigenetic marks of transcriptional activation and repression.
7. Stem cells, differentiation and epigenetics. Epigenetics and cell reprogramming. Environment and epigenetics. Transgenerational effects of epigenome modifications.
Prerequisites for admission
Basic knowledge in Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, Physiology, General and Organic Chemistry and Physics from BS degree.
Teaching methods
Teaching methods
The lessons will be held in classroom and in case of health emergency they will be switched to the MS Teams platform, following a calendar that will be communicated to students at the beginning of the course. The lessons held on MS Teams can be followed both synchronously based on the timetable of the first semester and asynchronously because the recordings of the lessons will be made available to students on the Ariel platform.
Attendance to classes is strongly recommended.
Classes are aimed at the acquisition of knowledge. During classes the teacher often interacts with students by asking them questions to stimulate the discussion and deeper understanding of concepts and topics.
Information about the organization of the lessons and how to access MS Teams and any other information about teaching will be available on the ARIEL teaching site: it is therefore recommended to consult it regularly. According to the evolution of the epidemic and in compliance with the relevant regulations, it will be possible to modify the modalities of the activities planned in the classroom, informing students through the ARIEL platform.
Teaching Resources
pdf files of the slides are available for students and are continuously updated when necessary through the teacher's web portal. References to specific articles illustrated and discussed during the lectures are indicated in the pdf of the slides.
Biochemistry textbooks used for general reference
- Harper, Review of Biochemistry, 24th edition
- Nelson, Cox, Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, 7th edition, W.H. Freeman and Company
Assessment methods and Criteria
Individual oral test

Due to the COVID-19 emergency the exam will be oral through the MS Teams platform. If social distancing regulations allow it, the exam will be written with two open questions (1.5 hour maximum) followed by discussion on the written test on the topics illustrated to students during the classes, with the aim of assessing how the concepts have been acquired.

Methods of verification of learning and evaluation criteria:
The oral exam will be conducted using the Microsoft Teams platform or, where the health emergency permits, in-person (see above).
The exam will be a critical discussion of the topics covered during the lectures, through which understanding, correctness, appropriateness of language, ability to connect the different topics of the program and to apply them to relevant biological issues will be evaluated.
The examination, in particular, will aim to:
- ascertain the achievement of the objectives in terms of knowledge and understanding;
- ascertain the ability to apply knowledge and understanding through the discussion of typical topics of the subject (e.g., importance of metabolic pathways, how they are regulated, principles of structure of biologically active molecules, etc.); and
- ascertain the mastery of the specific language related to biochemistry;
- verify the student's ability to connect the various topics of the program and to have a holistic view of the entire subject.

Type of evaluation:
Rated in thirtieths

Notification of results:
The results of the exams will be notified at the end of the test and will be recorded through the appropriate portal of reporting predisposed for each course
BIO/10 - BIOCHEMISTRY - University credits: 6
Lectures: 48 hours
Professor: Crestani Maurizio
Fridays 10:00-12:00 (ask for appointment)
Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, via Balzaretti 9