cod. 08695

Academic year 2020/21
1° year of course - First semester
- Elena FERRARI - Lorella FRANZONI
Academic discipline
Biochimica (BIO/10)
"struttura, funzione e metabolismo delle molecole d'interesse biologico"
Type of training activity
70 hours
of face-to-face activities
7 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

The student will have to acquire the capability to connect the chemical nomenclature to the corresponding formula and to describe the structure and function of macromolecules such as carbohydrate, proteins, lipids and nucleic acids present in the cell. He must recognize the functional groups responsible for the reactivity of the molecules. He must acquire an overview of the mechanisms that govern the transformation of the molecules and its correlation with the production and consumption of energy. He must understand and appreciate the connections between chemistry and biology.
The student must acquire the ability to select and apply the gained knowledge not only in theory but also while carrying out training activities.


The prerequisites consist of the chemical knowledges needed to pass the entrance test to Study in Medicine and Surgery.

Course unit content

In the first part, initially, an overview of the topics that will be discussed during the course will be presented and reasons which justify the time sequence with which they are presented will be explained. Subsequently the principles that govern the flow of energy associated with each chemical reaction and their meaning from a biological point of view will be discussed.

In the second part we will look at topics that concern a) the structure of the atom and its properties by introducing a series of mathematical formalism and useful graphs to represent atoms and molecules and to describe chemical reactions; b) the origin of the three-dimensional structure and reactivity of the molecules; c) The principles of chemical kinetics; d) the reactions of inorganic compounds with particular attention to acid-base reactions.

In Part three, it will be dealt with the chemical and structural properties of organic compounds.

In Part Fourth, finally, it will be treated the structural and functional characteristics of the main macromolecules present in the cells (carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and nucleic acids).

Full programme


Introduction and atomic structure. Properties of matter. Elements and compounds. Sub-atomic particles. Atomic number, mass number, isotopes. Atomic and molecular weight, gram atom, gram molecule. Atomic structure; atomic orbitals and quantum numbers. Electronic configuration of the elements.
Periodic trends in the chemical properties of the elements. Periodic table. Periodic properties of the elements: atomic size, ionization energy, electron affinity, electronegativity. Electronic structure and chemical properties.
Chemical bonding. Ionic bond; covalent bond (pure, polar, dative) and molecular orbitals. Intermolecular bonding: dipole-dipole interactions, hydrogen bonding, van der Waals forces.
Inorganic chemical compounds. Hydrurs, binary acids, oxides and anhydrides, peroxides, hydroxides, acids, neutral and acidic salts: formation reactions, reaction balancing, nomenclature, structural formulas.
Chemical kinetics. Rates of chemical reactions, rate laws. The factors that affect chemical reaction rate: chemical nature of the reactants, concentration of the reactants (order of a reaction), temperature and catalysts. Molecular collision theory and transition state theory.
Chemical equilibria. Chemical equilibrium is a dynamic process. The general expression of the equilibrium constant. Factors that affect the chemical equilibrium: variations of concentration, volume, pressure, temperature. Le Chatelier’s principle.
Chemical thermodynamics. First principle of thermodynamics, the concept of enthalpy. Second principle of thermodynamics, the concept of entropy. Third law of thermodynamics. Free energy and spontaneity of chemical reactions; free energy and equilibrium constant.
Solutions. Concentrations units: percent fraction w/w, w/v, and v/v, molarity, molality, normality.
Colligative properties of solutions: boiling point elevation, freezing point depression; origin and significance of the osmotic pressure, van’t Hoff factor and osmolarity.
Acids and bases: Arrhenius theory, Bronsted and Lowry theory, Lewis theory. Acid-base equilibria. Strong acids and bases, weak acids and bases.
Water ionization. Concept of pH. Calculating the pH of acid and base (strong and weak) solutions. Hydrolysis of salts in water. Buffer solutions: properties and pH calculation.
Acid-base titrations.


Stoichiometric calculations. Balancing chemical equations.
Oxidation state and oxidation number; balancing ox-red reactions.
Chemistry exercises: concentrations of solutions, pH calculation of aqueous solutions containing different compounds, colligative properties.


Introduction. Hybrid orbitals of carbon. Molecular and structural formulas. Types of reaction: substitution, addition, elimination. Electrophiles and nucleophiles reagents. Functional groups.
Hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons classification. Alkanes: nomenclature, physical properties and characteristic reactions. Structural isomerism. Cycloalkanes: structure and nomenclature. Alkenes and alkynes: nomenclature, physical properties and characteristic reactions.
Benzene: concept of aromaticity and properties. Benzene reactivity and most important substitution reactions. Substituents effect on reactivity and orientation.
Alcohols and phenols. Structure, classification and nomenclature. Physical and chemical properties; the acid-base behaviour. Characteristic reactions. Formation of ethers.
Aldehydes and ketones. Structure and nomenclature. Physical properties. Characteristic reactions and their mechanism: addition of water, alcohols, amine; aldol condensation.
Carboxylic acids and related carbonyl derivatives. Carboxylic acids: structure and nomenclature. Physical properties and acidity of carboxylic acids as a function of substituents. Characteristic reactions and mechanism of the preparation of esters.
Esters: nomenclature and properties; mechanism of the ester basic hydrolysis (saponification).
Anhydrides, amides and acid halides: structure, nomenclature and most important properties.
Amines. Structure, classification and nomenclature. Physical properties. Basicity of amines. Characteristic reactions. Aniline: structure and properties.
Stereoisomerism and optical activity. fundamental concepts of molecular symmetry and asymmetry. Chirality: enantiomers and optical activity; diastereoisomers. Compounds with two or more chiral centers.


Carbohydrates. Classification and nomenclature. Optical isomerism of carbohydrates. Structure, properties and function of the most important monosaccharides, disaccharides and polisaccharides.
Lipids. Fatty acids, triglycerides, saponification. Phospholipids and cerebrosides: structure and properties. Structural organization of lipids in water: micelles and lipid bilayers. Biological membranes: structure and function. Terpenes. Steroids: cholesterol and derivatives.
Amino acids and proteins. The 20 amino acids that occur in proteins: classification, structure and names. Acid-base behaviour of amino acids; isoelectric point. Peptide bond. The different levels of protein structure: primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary.
Nucleic acids. The sugar and the base components of nucleosides and nucleotides. Structure and nomenclature of nucleosides and nucleotides. Polynucleotides: structure and fundamental properties of RNA and DNA.


K.J. Denniston, J.J.Topping and R.L. Caret
Italian Edition
McGraw-Hill 2011

Organic Chemistry
H. Hart, L.E. Craine, D.J. Hart, C.M. Hadad
6th Edition Zanichelli

Introduction to General, Organic and Biochemistry
F. A. Bettelheim, W.H. Brown, M.K. Campbell., S.O. Farrell
9th Engl. Ed.

Teaching methods

The course will be conducted on the basis of lectures during which after having exposed some general concepts will go on to describe their first applications in chemical systems model and then as part of the life processes of a cell.
The course will be held to Students either in the classroom (“in presenza”) or in synchronous-streaming (“in telepresenza”) on the Teams platform. Therefore, the opportunity of Student/Teacher interaction will be preserved both face to face and remotely, by the simultaneous use of the Teams platform.
Lectures will be supported by slide presentations, which will be available to students on the Elly platform (

Assessment methods and criteria

The assessment of the achievement of the objectives set by the Course includes a written test.
Overall, the test is intended to certify whether the student has achieved a good knowledge and understanding of the whole chemical principles that underlie life processes and if he is able to select and apply them to solve simple problems.

As required by law and University Teaching Regulations, it is not possible to carry out the examination in parts and to acquire credits to one or more parts of the program.
In case of the persistence of the health emergency, the exams will be conducted remotely, as follows: structured written test conducted remotely (by Teams or Elly).
Students with S.L.D. / B.S.E. must first contact Le Eli-che: support for students with disabilities, D.S.A., B.E.S. (

Other information

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