17215 - Introduction to Biology

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Moduli: Francesca Sparla (Modulo 1) Monica Forni (Modulo 2) Romana Fato (Modulo 3)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2) Traditional lectures (Modulo 3)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Biotechnology (cod. 5976)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will acquire the fundamental principles that guide the organization and functioning of cells, starting from the biological molecules up to tissues. The course will also deal with the origin of life on our planet and the evolution of the cell. At the end of the course the student will be able to describe the structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (animals and plants), with particular attention to the subcellular compartments, energy metabolism, the cell division process and the communication mechanisms between cells.

Course contents

1. Stucture and catalysis

1.1 Amino acids and proteins

  • Structure and properties of amino acids; protein structure: primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure.
  • Fibrous and globular proteins.
  • Hemoglobin and myoglobin. Structure of heme. Saturation curves and cooperativity.

1.2 Lipids and biological membranes

  • Lipids. Fatty acids, the triacylglycerols, the glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and steroids.
  • The bilogical membranes. Movements of molecules across membranes: systems of simple diffusion, passive transport mediated, active transport primary and secondary; selective ion channels.

1.3 Carbohydrates

2. Bioenergetics and biochemical reactions.

  • Bioenergetics and Thermodynamics
  • Chemical Logic and Common Biochemical Reactions
  • Phosphoryl Group Transfers and ATP coupled reactions

3. Evolution and biodiversity

  • Origin of life (outline). Anoxygenic photosynthesis. Oxygenic photosynthesis and atmospheric oxygen. Autotrophy and heterotrophy. First eukaryotes and endosymbiosis.
  • Prokaryotes: cell wall, rapid evolution, nutritional and metabolic adaptations. Archea. Bacteria. Cyanobacteria
  • Protists. Secondary endosymbiosis. Escavata: Euglena. SAR: Stramenopiles, Alveolates, Rhizari. Archaeplastida: Green algae. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Use of microalgae for the production of biofuels and bioenergy

3. Plant biology

  • Plant cytology. The vacuole. The cell wall. Cellulose biosynthesis. Lignin. Plasmodesmata. Apoplasto and simplasto. Plastids.
  • Photosynthesis. Linear electron transport from water to NADP+ and chemiosmotic synthesis of ATP. Calvin-Benson cycle for carbon organication. Photorespiration and CO2 concentration in C4 plants.
  • Plants. Land colonisation. Non-vascular land plants (bryophytes). Seedless vascular land plants. Plants with seeds (spermatophytes) without flowers (gymnosperms) and with flowers (angiosperms).

5. Cell biology

  • The eukaryotic cell: structure and function of cell organels. Differences with the prokaryotic cell.
  • The cytoskeleton and cell motility.
  • The cell surface, cell-to-cell interactions.
  • The nucleus. DNA replication and Mitosis
  • Cell cycle and its regulation. Apoptosis.
  • Genetic information and how it is utilized in the cell.
  • Membrane transport, Endoplasmic reticulm, the Golgi apparatus, lysosomes.
  • Cell regulation and communication. Signals and their transduction.
  • Differentiation and stemness
  • Sexual reproduction and meiosis

Teaching methods

The course (8 ECTF, corresponding to 64 hours of teaching) is organized in three units. The first unit (2 ECTS; 16 hours) conducted by Prof. Romana Fato introduces biological macromolecules and provides the basic knowledge of bioenergy and biochemical reactions. The second unit (3 ECTS; 24 hours) led by Prof. Francesca Sparla provides an overview of the origin of life and of biodiversity and focuses on plant biology. The third unit (3 ECTS; 24 hours) conducted by Prof. Monica Forni provides insight into cell biology. Lessons are accompanied by the projection of images and diagrams which can also be found on the Virtual-University of Bologna platform.

Questions and requests of further explanation from the students are always welcome, both during and after the lesson.

Assessment methods

The evaluation method will take place through a written test organized into 3 open-ended questions (maximum 5 pts per question) and 25 multiple choice questions (1 pt per question, no penalty for incorrect or non-provided answers). Minimum threshold for passing: 25 points equal to 18/30. Subsequently, each additional point will correspond to one more mark. Honors are awarded upon reaching 38 points.

The final mark will be calculated as the weighted average of the two marks obtained in the modules '17215-Introduction to Biology' and '13731-General Genetics'.

Teaching tools

The course will take place in classrooms with PC projection. All lectures will be given with power point presentations. The files will be made available to students during the course.

Office hours

See the website of Francesca Sparla

See the website of Monica Forni

See the website of Romana Fato