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BSc Medical Physiology

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Advanced Ion Transport (E)

Unit code BIOL31591
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


Ion channels and transporters are crucial to cellular definition and function. This unit will explore how these proteins are studied, explain their structural diversity and illustrate their importance in electrically active and non-electrically active cells using specific physiological examples. You will develop transferable skills in evaluating published material and in information gathering whilst also gaining knowledge in how the architecture of ion channels and transporters enables control of discrete cellular functions.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience BIOL10832 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Membrane Excitability: Ion Channels & Transporters in Action BIOL21321 Pre-Requisite Recommended

Any ONE of the following RSM units is strongly recommended:

  • BIOL 20922 Neuroscience RSM
  • BIOL 20932 Pharmacology RSM
  • BIOL 20942 Physiology RSM


Ion channels and transporters are ubiquitous membrane proteins that transport ions and other small molecules in cells. They are crucial to cellular definition and function. This unit will explore how these proteins are studied, explain their structural diversity and illustrate their importance in electrically active and non-electrically active cells, using specific physiological examples.

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course it is expected that students will


•       understand how ion channels and transporters are assembled into unique complexes to enable the control of discrete cellular functions.


  •  gain insights into how knowledge of the molecular and cellular physiology of ion  

 channels and transporters can be exploited therapeutically


•       have developed transferable skills in evaluating published material, information gathering and problem solving.



•       Membrane Transporters and Aquaporins: Review of structures, functions and regulation of solute transporters and aquaporins in physiological systems. Co-operative interactions of channels and transporters in epithelial ion transport, including disease examples.

        Calcium Signalling: Structures and functions of ion channels and transporters involved in calcium signalling using specific physiological examples. Introduction to the therapeutic relevance of calcium signalling.

•       Ion channel trafficking: Advanced principles of ion channel biosynthesis, assembly, trafficking, degradation and targeting/distribution, described using specific physiological and disease examples.

•       Voltage-gated ion channels: Structural and functional diversity of membrane potential sensitive channels which play critical roles in controlling neuronal, cardiovascular and neuroendocrine cell function. Introduction to how advanced understanding of ion channel structure and function can be exploited therapeutically.

•       Nucleotide-regulated ion channels: Review of structures, physiological roles and pharmacological regulation of nucleotide regulated ion channels.

•       Ion channel integration and cell function: How channels work together to regulate cell function: 1. How action potential shaping regulates cell function, e.g.excitation-contraction coupling in muscle. 2. Glucose homeostasis, e.g. glucose sensing in pancreatic islet cells.



Employability skills

Analytical skills
Critical evaluation of published material
Oral communication
Students are encouraged to ask questions during lectures and in scheduled tutorial-style sessions.
Problem solving
Online problem solving and questions relating to lecture material
This is a final year unit and the lecture content is research-led with emphasis on current research. Students are encouraged to read around the subject and, in addition to their own literature-based research, are directed to additional scientific papers to enhance their knowledge. Self-directed reading of additional materials, development of information gathering skills.
Written communication
Scheduled tutorial on exam essay writing provides in-session feedback on essay planning. Students are encouraged to submit full essay plans for individual written feedback (optional).
After each lecture students are encouraged to undertake additional reading and both self-discipline and time management are important skills which good students will develop in doing this.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 5%
Written exam 95%

2 hour Examination (95%),

Other - completion of online feedback questions (5%)

Feedback methods

  • Online problem solving and questions related to lecture material (5% of final mark).
  • Discussion Board (Unit Blackboard site).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Elizabeth Fitzgerald Unit coordinator

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