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The University of Southampton

ELEC1210 Molecular Basis of Life

Module Overview

This module describes the types of macromolecules found in cells with a particular emphasis on DNA and proteins. The module will describe how proteins are synthesised and the role they play in cells. 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. Furthermore, it will describe to 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. 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. The structure of lipids and lipid membranes and how some proteins are integrated into lipid bilayers for certain cell functions is described. The module includes four practical sessions which will take place in the Centre for Hybrid Biodevices laboratories (B85). You will investigate enzyme kinetics, perform chromatography of amino acids, and use electrophoresis to determine the size of DNA and separate proteins.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The structure of nucleic acids and how DNA is replicated, transcribed and translated into proteins.
  • Plasmids and the use of restriction enzymes in creating recombinant DNA for use in molecular biology/biotechnology.
  • The structures and properties of the amino acids found in proteins including examples of post-translational modifications to their structure.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 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.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Collect data and write up experimental results in scientific format.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Safely perform simple biochemical laboratory techniques.


Fundamentals - Amino acids, proteins, peptides - 3-dimenesional structure of proteins - Protein function - Nucleotides and nucleic acids and DNA - Enzymes, kinetics and reaction rates - Biological membranes and ion channels - Structural Carbohydrates - DNA technologies Practical work - Enzyme Kinetics - Chromatography of amino acids - Gel electrophoresis of DNA - SDS-PAGE

Learning and Teaching

Specialist Laboratory 12
Total study time42

Resources & Reading list

Mathews, Van Holde, Appling and Anthony-Cahill. Biochemistry 4th Edition. 

Berg, Tymocsko and Stryer. Biochemistry 7th Edition. 

Voet and Voet. Biochemistry 4th Edition. 

Meisenberg and Simmons. Principles of Medical Biochemistry 3rd Edition. 

Nelson and Cox. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry 6th Edition. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Continuous Assessment 25%
Final Assessment  75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Set Task 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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