PSC2002 : Membrane Transport and Cell Signalling in Health and Disease

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module aims to develop knowledge and understanding of two topics central to our understanding of life processes: membrane transport and cell signalling. The properties, structures and functions of key mechanisms that underlie membrane transport and cell signalling processes will be explored, particularly in relation to epithelial tissues. Consideration will be given to the impact of malfunctions in these processes leading to disease states, along with how this knowledge can be used to design drug therapies for treatment of these diseases. Practical techniques used to study these processes will also be described.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module consists of two themes. The first theme of the module covers membrane transport, with a particular focus on transport in epithelial cells, and considers:

1. The fundamental principles that govern transport of essential solutes and water across biological membranes

2. The molecular structure of key membrane transporters that underlie these transport processes

3. The physiological role of these transport processes in cell function, including epithelial cells that perform specialized transport functions e.g. gastrointestinal tract, exocrine glands and kidney

4. How sequential membrane transport across epithelial cells underlies absorption and secretion by these organ systems

5. Tools available for studying ion transport in epithelial tissues both in vitro and in vivo

6. How disruption of membrane transport processes, such as occurs in cystic fibrosis and multi-drug resistance, may give rise to serious diseases in humans

7. Practical experience in techniques used to study ion transport

The second theme of the module covers cell signalling, and considers:

8. The second theme of the module covers cell signalling, and considers:

9. Important means by which mammalian cells sense and respond to their environment

10. How they communicate with each other through second messengers such as cyclic nucleotides and calcium

11. Cellular and molecular mechanisms used to interpret the signals they receive

12. Tools available for studying cell signalling

13. The role of insulin signalling pathways in health and disease

14. How dysfunction in cell signalling processes underlies many important human diseases

For both parts of the module there will be a strong emphasis on relating the knowledge gained from understanding these life processes to the development of new pharmacological and cell-based treatments for important human diseases.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00Timed Essay - Students receive a general topic area 1week prior.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion110:0010:00MCQ Assessment.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion120:0020:00Practical / lab report 1
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture271:0027:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1108:00108:00Independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical13:003:00One practical of 3 hours, run twice
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:002 different seminars: class divided into small groups (less than 15) run by teaching staff.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart new information regarding fundamental principles of core information and an indication on the scope of the course as a basis for guided independent study. The seminar sessions will provide critical feedback on assessed material and encourage an increased understanding of the material through discussion, grouping the students by degree programme for tutorials will allow slight differences in emphasis. The practical class will provide experience in recording and analysing biological data to support the core knowledge, carrying out scientific calculations, developing computer-based presentation skills and working as part of a small group. Guided independent study will be used for self-directed learning, including further reading and preparation for assessments

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1201A70MCQ: 50%, Essay 50% (1 question from a choice of 2)
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M10Structured report including data analysis and questions associated with the practical material.
Prob solv exercises1M5MCQ Assessment based on lecture material, as well as new material not directly covered by lectures. Given 2 weeks to complete.
Essay1M15Timed Essay under exam conditions. (40 mins)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written examination will test the student’s knowledge of taught material.

The in-course assessments will promote study and consolidation of knowledge and will provide students with information on their progress, identifying areas of weakness. The in course MCQ will test the student’s knowledge of taught material as well as directing them to research new material. The timed essay will provide an opportunity for the students to gain practice writing an essay under exam conditions as well as to demonstrate the capacity to integrate and discuss underlying principles of membrane transport and cell signalling in health and disease related to their programme of study.
The practical session and report will allow students to demonstrate their capacity to perform experiments, analyse and present experimental data in a scientific manner (using appropriate computer software programs) and to draw appropriate conclusions. Group work during the practical session will encourage team work and development of verbal and written scientific communication skills.

Reading Lists