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Introduction to Molecular Cell Biology


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Dr Richard Rayne
  • Assessment: computer-based (MCQ) tests and online short-answer tests (100%)

Module description

This is the first module in a three-module sequence at Level 4 designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of foundational principles underpinning the functioning of cells in higher organisms. A sound background in this subject matter is required by biomedical scientists and molecular biologists and is preparatory for modules in later years of the programme.

We will focus on the general architecture of cells, how cells generate protein products from stored genetic information and the key processes that define the life cycle of cells.

Indicative syllabus

  • Cellular architecture: prokaryotic vs. eukaryotic cells and their constituent parts
  • The central dogma of molecular cell biology: information flow from DNA to RNA to protein
  • DNA as the genetic material: chromosomes and genes; transcription producing RNA; translation of genetic messages into proteins; post-translational fates of proteins
  • How errors in genetic instructions may affect the functioning of protein products
  • The life cycle of a eukaryotic cell: the cell cycle; DNA replication; mitotic cell division; meiosis; stem cells; cell death

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • briefly summarise our understanding of 'the tree of life' and how this reveals the common origins of life on planet Earth
  • give a descriptive account of the architecture of a typical eukaryotic (animal) cell
  • describe the general structures of nucleotides and amino acids, naming the component parts of each, indicating their key properties, and explaining how these respectively act as the building blocks of polymeric structures
  • give concise accounts of the processes of: DNA replication; transcription of protein-coding genes; processing of primary ribonucleotide transcripts; translation of mRNA into protein; and typical post-translational fates of proteins
  • for selected types of mutations, explain the likely impact on the structure and functioning of the protein product
  • give a concise account of the eukaryotic cell cycle, enumerating and describing the major phases, and explaining the key processes taking place within each phase
  • for both mitotic and meiotic cell division, explain how and why the structures/composition of chromosomes vary through the different stages of the cell cycle.