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The University of Southampton

ELEC1211 Biomolecular Systems

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. You will also learn the principles of Physical chemistry including Chemical equilibria, energy, Valence, moles, bonds, energy & thermodynamics. The module includes 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.
  • The principles of chemical bonds, reaction rates and equilibria.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the Michaelis-Menten model of enzyme kinetics, including the effects of inhibitors, substrate concentration, temperature, pH and allosteric regulators on enzyme activity.
  • Describe non-energetic/structural roles of carbohydrates in living organisms.
  • Describe the structure of membranes and the structures/functions of proteins found in membranes.
  • Describe new advances in DNA technology and cloning
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 biochemical laboratory techniques.


Fundamentals -Chemical Bonds -Energetics and kinetics -Chemical equilibria -Thermodynamics - Amino acids, proteins, peptides - 3-dimensional 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

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning is through lectures, tutorials and laboratories.

Completion of assessment task12
Follow-up work30
Wider reading or practice40
Specialist Laboratory 12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Berg, Tymocsko and Stryer. Biochemistry. 

Meisenberg and Simmons. Principles of Medical Biochemistry. 

Voet and Voet. Biochemistry. 

Atkins and De Paula. Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences. 

Nelson and Cox. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. 

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination 75%
Laboratory Report 6.25%
Laboratory Report 6.25%
Laboratory Report 6.25%
Laboratory Report 6.25%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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