cod. 22175

Academic year 2023/24
1° year of course - Second semester
Giorgio DIECI
Academic discipline
Biologia molecolare (BIO/11)
Discipline del settore biomolecolare
Type of training activity
52 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

At the end of the class the student should have acquired knowledge and skills related to the biochemistry of nervous system cells and of neurotransmitters, to gene regulation processes essential for neuron functions, to protein homeostasis systems in the same cells. Through the study of examples of pathological alterations corresponding to the different functions and processes treated, the student should have refined his / her ability to understand the complexity of the molecular interactions networks on which the nervous functions depend.

In particular, the student should be able to:
1) Know, inserting them in a general framework of molecular biology of the cell, the biochemical characteristics of the main cells of the nervous system at the basis of their functions; know the general principles of eukaryotic gene regulation and their specific variations in the functioning of nerve cells; be able to use the specific language of biomolecular disciplines in describing neuronal processes (knowledge and understanding)
2) Recognize the most appropriate methodological approaches for understanding the different neuronal processes at the molecular level; be able, on the basis of the examples discussed during the course, to understand the applicative relevance of the biochemical knowledge of neuronal processes, especially in understanding their pathological alterations and the corresponding therapeutic possibilities (applying knowledge and understanding)
3) Expose the results of the studies with competence and precision, even to a non-expert public (communication skills)
4) Evaluate and distinguish from each other the different levels of understanding of the nervous processes that can be accessed through the different disciplinary approaches, in order to critically appreciate the advantages and limitations of the biomolecular approach and knowledge (making judgments)
5) Link the different topics with each other and with the basic and related disciplines; update by consulting the scientific publications of the sector (learning skills).


Basic biochemistry and molecular cell biology.

Course unit content

Part A. Cellular neurochemistry
1. Neurons, glial cells and their special biochemical features
2. The membrane of nerve cells: biogenesis, structure and function
3. The cytoskeleton of neurons and glia
4. Intracellular traffic and axonal transport
5. Cell adhesion molecules in the nervous system
6. Biochemistry of myelin
7. Energetic and lipid metabolism in the brain

Part B. Biomolecules, mechanisms and dysfunctions of intercellular signalling
1. Molecular players in synaptic transmission: an overview
2. Biochemistry of neurotransmitters and their receptors:
2.1 Metabolism, transport and interactions of acetylcholine, with examples of pathological alterations
2.2 Metabolism, transport and interactions of catecholamines and serotonin, with examples of pathological alterations
2.3 Metabolism, transport and interactions of glutamate and GABA, with examples of pathological alterations
2.4 Biochemistry of purinergic signaling
2.5 Metabolism, transport and interactions of neuropeptides

Part C. Gene regulation in the nervous system
1. Transcriptional gene regulation
1.1 Overview of transcriptional gene regulation
1.2 Transcription factors in the central nervous system
1.3 Chromatin regulation of neuron maturation and plasticity
2. Post-transcriptional gene regulation
2.1 Overview of post-transcriptional gene regulation
2.2 Control of mRNA localization in neurons
2.3 Regulation of translation in neurons
3. Gene regulation and memory processes

Part D. Protein homeostasis (proteostasis) in the nervous system
1. The proteostasis network
1.1 Protein folding and molecular chaperones
1.2 Protein degradation pathways
1.3 Prions
2. Examples of pathological alterations

Full programme

See the "Contents" section


Kandel et al., Principles of neural science, 6th edition (McGraw-Hill, 2021)
For an italian translation: Kandel et al, Principi di neuroscienze (CEA 2014, 4° italian ed. based on the 5° original ed.).

LODISH et al., MOLECULAR CELL BIOLOGY, 9th edition, W.H. Freeman & C. publishers, 2021; also available in Italian translation, Zanichelli 2022.

For some arguments, contents and illustrations will be from:
BRADY et al., BASIC NEUROCHEMISTRY, 8th edition, Academic Press, 2012.

Teaching methods

Lectures, guided discussion of some articles and, where possible, seminars focusing on specific issues.

Assessment methods and criteria

The summative assessment of learning is carried out through a final written exam, based on six open-ended questions, each of which is evaluated with a score from 0 to 5. The student must demonstrate that he/she has understood, and is able to apply, the fundamental concepts of each topic covered. The results of the exam are published on the Esse3 portal within two weeks of the exam date. Students can view the exam, by appointment with the teacher.

Other information

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