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The University of Southampton

BIOL1010 Macromolecules of Life

Module Overview

This module describes the types of macromolecule that constitute living cells, with a particular emphasis on DNA and proteins. As an entry level module it is designed to bring forward participants to a common point where all will share the appropriate biological knowledge, terminology and understanding of these fundamental molecules. This will serve as a solid foundation for later modules in biochemistry, biology, physiology and pharmacology.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the structure of nucleic acids and explain how DNA is replicated, transcribed and translated into proteins
  • Define a plasmid and explain the use of restriction enzymes in creating recombinant DNA for use in molecular biology/biotechnology.
  • Describe the structures and properties of the amino acids found in proteins including examples of post-translational modifications to their structure
  • Describe the secondary, tertiary and quaternary structures of proteins including explanation of the forces involved in forming and maintaining such structures.
  • Describe non-energetic/structural roles of carbohydrates in living organisms
  • Explain the Michaelis-Menten model of enzyme kinetics, including the effects of inhibitors, substrate concentration, temperature, pH and allosteric regulators on enzyme activity
  • Describe the structure of membranes and the structures/functions of proteins found in membranes.
  • Understand simple biochemical laboratory techniques, collect data online and write up sample experimental results in scientific format


The module will introduce some of the macromolecules found in cells, how these are synthesised and the role they play. The structure and function of the various forms of nucleic acid are described and how the genetic information is passed on from one generation to another. Other lectures build upon this information to illustrate how DNA can be manipulated by modern molecular biology techniques and how genes can be located in extracts of DNA, isolated and then cloned into plasmid vectors for high expression of the protein they encode. The structures of the amino acids used to synthesise proteins and the various characteristics they contribute to the final protein are discussed which leads onto a description of how protein chains fold, the structures of fully folded proteins and the nature of forces that stabilise the folded protein. An introduction is given to how certain proteins bind small molecules such as substrates and how the activity of enzymes depends upon the concentration of substrates and the absence or presence of inhibitors. Post-translational modifications of proteins are discussed, in particular glycosylation which leads on to other roles of carbohydrates in biological systems. Finally, the module contains lectures on the structure of lipids and lipid membranes and how some proteins are integrated into lipid bilayers for certain cell functions.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, on-line tests, computer practicals and independent study.

Independent Study128
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Mathews, Van Holde, Appling and Anthony-Cahill. Biochemistry. 

Berg, Tymocsko and Stryer . Biochemistry. 

Meisenberg and Simmons. Principles of Medical Biochemistry. 

Voet and Voet. Biochemistry . 

Papachristodoulou, Snape, Elliott & Elliott. Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 6th edition. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Computer practicals 25%
Final Exam  (2 hours) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 25%
Exam 75%

Linked modules

Co-requisite: CHEM1012 if no A-level chemistry.

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