Module code: BS1030

Module co-ordinators: Dr Mark Leyland, Dr Olga Makarova, Professor John Schwabe

In this module you will develop a basic understanding of information transfer in biological systems, macromolecular structures, enzyme catalysis, protein function, membrane structure and function, bioenergetics and selected metabolic processes. You will also develop laboratory skills, including the writing-up of experiments and data handling.

You will study the basic chemical principles that underpin biochemistry and the structures of biological macromolecules and their components. We will examine the principles and mechanisms of information transfer from DNA to proteins and the the basic principles of enzyme catalysis. We will also explore the relationship between structure and function for some proteins. You will become familiar with the key features of biological membranes and with the key metabolic processes within a cell including regulation

You will work as part of a small group in weekly tutorials, under the guidance of a tutor, on a range of topics designed to support the lecture material. You will also work on your own in the practical classes learning basic techniques fundamental to biochemical experimentation, such as enzyme assays and DNA electrophoresis. There will also be ‘dry’ laboratory sessions to foster your understanding of experimental techniques and data analysis carried out in practical classes.

Topics covered

  • Structure and function of DNA, the genetic material
  • Introduction to amino acids, peptide bonds and protein structure. Diversity of protein function. Enzymes and catalysis.
  • Enzymes that manipulate and replicate DNA
  • Transcription and translation. Types of RNA and their functions. Eukaryotic transcription and splicing. The genetic code.
  • Protein function. Enzyme action: ribonuclease. Oxygen binding proteins: myoglobin and haemoglobin. Protein action in vitro and in vivo.
  • Membranes. Fatty acids, triacylglycerols and phospholipids. Proteins and lipids in membranes; membrane function and structure.
  • Introduction to mammalian metabolism. Outline of bioenergetics, importance of ATP. Carbohydrate and lipid catabolism. The citric acid cycle. Oxidative phosphorylation. Anabolic processes: lipid storage, glycogen synthesis, gluconeogenesis.
  • The chemical principles behind organic molecules, molecular forces, catalysis and biomolecular structure.


  • 50 one-hour lectures
  • 15 two-hour practicals
  • 6 one-hour tutorials


  • Exam, 2 hours, multiple choice and short answer questions (60%)
  • Lab practical write-ups (15%),
  • On-line assessment on practical programme (10%)
  • Report (15%)