Biological Membranes

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

Within this topic we describe the structure of biological membranes, the biochemical analysis of the molecules involved in their composition, with the emphasis on the functional role of membrane proteins. By using a biochemical and cell biology approach, we discuss the key role of membranes in membrane transport processes, in cell metabolism, in the immune response and in signal transduction. Diseases connected to disfunction of membrane components are presented, and the specific membrane transporter proteins involved in multidrug resistance of cancer as well as in general drug metabolim are discussed. We also review the membrane alterations connected to major cellular functions, including cell growth and differentiation.

Lectures and discussion:

Key structural elements of biological membranes:

- membrane lipids, proteins and carbohydrates,

- features of the plasma membrane and intracellular membranes,

- studies on the structural features of membrane proteins, membrane topology, two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures for membrane components,

- synthesis of membrane proteins, intracellular targeting and membrane trafficking.

Membrane transport processes:

- major types of membrane transport processes - diffusion and facilitated diffusion, membrane mediated transport,

- carriers, channels, ionophores,

- transport kinetics,

- function and regulation of active transport processes,

- The Na/K pump and the membrane calcium pumps,

- ABC transporters,

- molecular structure and function of ion channels

The role of membranes in signal transduction:

- cell membrane receptors, structure and regulations,

- seven transmembrane helix receptors, structure and function of GPCR,

- membrane receptors involved in the activation of the immune system,

- signal transduction in normal and tumor cells,

- signal transduction by extracellular nucleotides

Special membrane functions and membrane diseases:

- antigen presentation on the cell surface, membranes and cell differentiation,

- membrane cytoskeleton, membrane anchoring proteins and domains,

- structure and function of membrane proteins involved in multidrug resistance of cancer and drug metabolism,

- membrane proteins in stem cells and in gene therapy

Topics for the practicals:

- Examination of membrane proteins involved in active ion transport processes - in vitro expression, localization, functional studies,

- Techniques employed for studying signal transduction in biological membranes,

- Flurorescence techniques used for studying Ca2+ signaling and the function of the multidrug transporter proteins.



  • Molecular Biology of the Cell Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K. and Walter, P. 4th Edition Garland Science New York, 2002

Additional material:

  • Molecular Cell Biology, 4th ed, Darnell, J., Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, L., Matsudaira, P., and Baltimore D. Scientific American Books, New York, 1999
  • Molecular Cell Biology, Harvey Lodish Arnold Berk Chris A. Kaiser, Monty Krieger, Matthew Scott, Anthony Bretscher, Hidde Ploegh, Paul Matsudaira, Scientific American Books, New York, 2007