Teaching plan for the course unit



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General information


Course unit name: Cell and Molecular Neurobiology of Ion Channels and Transporters

Course unit code: 568678

Academic year: 2021-2022

Coordinator: Esther Perez Navarro

Department: Department of Biomedical Sciences

Credits: 2,5

Single program: S



Estimated learning time

Total number of hours 62,5


Face-to-face and/or online activities



-  Lecture




Supervised project


Independent learning







Language. The course is taught entirely in English, and the articles and class materials are in English as well. Students are expected to have a level of English that enables them to understand scientific articles, and the basic conversational and writing skills to engage into course discussions or make oral and written presentations of scientific literature.

Previous training. Classes are at an advanced level, with an emphasis on the analysis of biological processes from a molecular, biochemical, and cellular perspectives.

Students are expected to have working knowledge on Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry equivalent to the level achieved with a university degree in Biology, Biochemistry or Biotechnology.



Competences to be gained during study


General competences
1) Skills in acquisition, critical processing, and communication of scientific information, as well as for the proposal and discussion of hypotheses.

2) Ability to outline and design experimental approaches to solve specific biomedical research questions.


Specific competences:

1) Understanding of how cells integrate responses from different external stimuli regulating the development of complex functions.

2) Knowledge of major challenges in the characterization of surface receptor-ligand interactions and in the dissection of their intracellular signalling pathways and gene expression mechanisms. Understanding practical implications for current drug design.

3) Thorough understanding of general experimental strategies employed to unravel the role of ion channels in cellular physiology.

4) Capacity to integrate progress in molecular biology to the understanding of the basic elements governing cellular excitability.



These competences unfold in the following aspects:


Training in analytical and synthesis skills.

Training in management of information sources.

Training in oral and written communication.



Training teamwork abilities (sharing tasks, collaborative work, active and positive ways to evaluate other team mates, accept criticism from team mates).

Training abilities for discussion in group.



Training in problem solving, decision making and time management.

Ability to produce, test and project their own ideas.

Training in working for quality.





Learning objectives


Referring to abilities, skills




Teaching blocks


1. Programa


  1. Introduction to ion channels
  2. Membrane receptors with ion channel activity CC 16 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  3. Ion channels and cellular excitability I. Structure-function studies of Na+ channels. CC 17 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  4. Ion channels and cellular excitability II. Structure-function studies of K+ channels. CC 17 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  5. Ion channels and cellular excitability III. Structure-function studies of Ca2+ channels. JMF 18 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  6. Regulation of ion channels by phosphorylation. JMF 18 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  7. Regulation of ion channels by G-protein JMF 19 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  8. Stimulus-secretion coupling. Synaptic transmission. JMF 19 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  9. Preparation and group discussion of oral presentation JMF 20 OCT Supervised student´s own work. (8:40-9:30 AM)
  10. Preparation and group discussion of oral presentation JMF 20 OCT Supervised student´s own work. (9:40-10:30 AM)
  11. Ion channels and cellular excitability IV. Structure-function studies of Cl-  channels MAV  23 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  12. Ion channels and cellular excitability V. Structure-function studies of cationic TRP channels.  MAV 23 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  13. Cellular responses to physical stimuli: temperature, osmotic stress, mechanical stress. MAV 24 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  14. Preparation and group discussion of oral presentation MAV 24 OCT Supervised student´s own work. (9:40-10:30 AM)
  15. Paper discussion JMF 25 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  16. Paper discussion JMF 25 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)
  17. Paper discussion JMF 26 OCT (8:40-9:30 AM)
  18. Paper discussion. MAV 26 OCT  (9:40-10:30 AM)
  19. Paper discussion. MAV 27 OCT  (8:40-9:30 AM)
  20. Paper discussion. MAV 27 OCT (9:40-10:30 AM)



Teaching methods and general organization



Context: This course aims at presenting students with the basic principles governing cell communication (with a focus in neuro-transmission). Hence, the course analyses how signals are transmitted via cell contacts, by extracellular soluble mediators and by chemical or physical stimuli. The course describes the molecular identification and characterization of different membrane receptors and the roles of ion channels. In addition, paradigms of intracellular signalling cascades and gene expression mechanisms located downstream of different receptors/sensors are analysed.

The course is intended for graduate students in life sciences and is divided in two parts.


Focus: The course is not intended as an exhaustive listing of cellular receptors and their signalling mechanisms, but is rather mainly based on the in-depth analysis of different paradigms where intensive biomedical research is being developed nowadays. The course is structured with a series of introductory lectures and research seminars that help establish the context and current views of problems under discussion. Major topics covered include molecular structure and properties of membranes, transport of ions, ion channels and their regulation, membrane excitability, sensory transduction mechanisms, synaptic transmission and intracellular messengers involved in excitation-secretion coupling, contraction of muscles and neuronal functioning, among others.

These topics are covered in a comprehensive while educational manner, with each topic beginning in an elementary fashion and ending with a discussion of selected publishers.

Key aspects: This is an optional course for master’s degree students with different specializations such as Bioinformatics, Biomedical Research, Pharmaceutical Industry and Clinics, Neurosciences. Special effort is then required in the introductory sessions that aim at balancing the experience of students with different backgrounds. These introductory sessions also try to identify students that might require extra support from the teaching staff in order to progress adequately during the course.

This course uses formal lectures as well as active discussion of related and updated scientific literature as tools to allow students to transition from previous courses, mainly based on lectures and well consolidated textbooks, to the scenario of acquiring and applying information from fast-changing sources.

Problems are prepared from published articles and are handed out to students, together with relevant material, at the beginning of the course.

Students are expected to actively engage in discussion and problem solving individually and in groups.



Official assessment of learning outcomes


The exam consists of a written test with questions about the lectures, seminars and problems discussed during the course, plus an exercise of commentary and discussion of an article. The score obtained in the exam is added to the grades obtained during the course in the problem discussion and presentation sessions.

Percentages for the final grade are as follows:

1. Attendance (20% of the total grade).

2. Written test (60% of the total grade).

3. Scientific article presentation and discussion + Article commentary (20% of the total grade).


To successfully pass the course, it is necessary to have a grade of at least 5 out of 10 in the written test.

These assessment activities are individual (except for research reports presented by a group of students) and compulsory.

The dates for specific assessment activities is announced at the beginning of the course.



Reading and study resources

Consulteu la disponibilitat a CERCABIB


The main sources of bibliography will be reviews on specific topics and selected original research articles. These are updated from year to year, and are available to students at the course’s website in the Virtual Campus at the beginning of the course. In addition, comprehensive electronic resources and basic textbooks on general cellular and molecular biology and immunology are recommended for basic notions and refreshing forgotten concepts.

1) Cell signalling biology [Recurs electrònic] / Michael J. Berridge, that can be accessed through the UPF library. London : Portland Press, 2007  EnllaƧ

2) An excellent reference book can be found in recent editions of Molecular Biology of the Cell, by Bruce Alberts. 6th ed. New York : Garland Science, 2015  EnllaƧ

[També, 6a ed., 2016, en castellą]  EnllaƧ

3) Note that the NCBI website contains a number of freely available previous editions of books on numerous disease-related disciplines at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=Books  EnllaƧ