BSc Biology / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action

Unit code BIOL21321
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

Excitable cells play a key role in the function of the nervous system, and other systems, by generating action potentials in response to stimuli. You will learn about; the role of ion channels and ion transporter proteins, the relationship between cellular structure and the function of excitable cells, the features of the synapse that underpin fast chemical neurotransmission and its modification, and the methods used to analyse or predict cell excitability.

Pre/co-requisites

Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Excitable Cells BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
BIOL21321 Pre- & Co-requisites are BIOL10832

Aims

The aim of this module is to give students the strongest grounding in our current understanding of excitable cell pharmacology and physiology through study of the key elements of membrane excitability. It will also provide a solid theoretical framework in membrane excitability irrespective of which degree programme the students are pursuing. It will treat each area in a logical, fresh and exciting manner highlighting relevance to function and disease. In addition, students will be encouraged to think critically and to appreciate the special challenges intrinsic to studying excitable membrane function.

Learning outcomes

In relation to membrane excitability, students should be able to describe in detail: (i) the key governing principles, (ii) the role of ion channels and ion transporter proteins, (iii) the relationship between cellular structure and the function of excitable cells, (iv) the features of the synapse that underpin fast chemical neurotransmission and its modification, and (v) the methods used to analyse or predict cell excitability.

Syllabus

Lecture Content

  • Membrane structural organization and types of integral membrane proteins
  • Regulation of cell volume and contents including pHi and [Ca2+]i
  • Ion channels, selective ion permeability and membrane potential generation
  • The ionic basis of the action potential and diversity in excitable tissues
  • Functional diversity of voltage-gated ion channels and their pharmacology
  • Cell polarization in epithelia and neurones, and the role of compartmentalization
  • Cytoskeleton and the differential trafficking of membrane-targeted proteins
  • Electrical and chemical neurotransmission and transmitter-gated ion channels
  • Transmitter synthesis, vesicle exocytosis and recycling
  • Synaptic integration and plasticity

eLearning Activities

Blackboard discussion board topics (as suggested by contributors). Mid-semester mini-exam to assess progress. Simulation of excitable membrane behaviour to expand understanding of the Nernst equation and the ionic basis for excitability (eLearning modules). Exam format questions with model answers (revision aides for January exam).

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students encouraged to think critically about the topics covered.
Problem solving
Short answer questions in the exam and eLearning modules may require a degree of problem solving.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 10%
Written exam 90%

1.5 hour examination (90%): 12-15 short questions; eLearning modules (10%)

Feedback methods

Mid-semester exam seminar to provide answers and Q & A session on material presented so far. Exam clinic to follow in Semester 4 as a forum to discuss marks and see model answers.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.3
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76.7

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jonathan Turner Unit coordinator

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