BIOL 219 (Fall)

Physical Biology of the Cell

J. Vogel (Coordinator)
Bellini 269
(514) 398-5880
S. Weber N5/16 (514) 398-2042
P. François Rutherford Physics (514) 398-1635
G. Bub McIntyre 1128 (514) 398-8148
& Staff      
4 credits (3-1-5)
1 year of college calculus, chemistry and physics or equivalents, BIOL 112 or equivalent
MATH 222 or equivalent    
Not open to students who have taken ANAT 212, BIOC 212, BIOL 200 and BIOL 201

BIOL 219 is an introduction to molecular and cell biology using physical biology perspectives, and equally prepares interdisciplinary students for more advanced courses in the biological and physical sciences. Technologies and methodologies, both experimental and computational, are included in the presentation of each thematic module.

Module 1: Overview of a living cell; prokaryotic and eukaryotic, biophysical perspectives
1.1. Design features of cells
1.2. Major classes of biological molecules; examples
1.3. Length and time scales

Module 2: Proteins, enzymes and reactions
2.1. Protein structure (1, 2, 3 and quaternary)
2.2. Sculpting protein structure (modifications)
2.3. Protein folding and quality control (chaperone example)
2.4. Enzyme characteristics, reaction and energy potential
2.5. Orders of kinetic reactions
2.6. Allostery
2.7. Cooperativity

Module 3: Energy
3.1. Overview of metabolism
3.4. Physical basis of energy in biological systems
3.5. Making ATP with oxygen, part I
3.6. Making ATP with oxygen, part II
3.7. Origins of life, how to make ATP without oxygen
3.8. Photosynthesis (physical perspective)

Module 4: Information storage and flow
4.1. DNA and RNA structure; RNA structure-function
4.2. The physical basis of the genetic code
4.3. 1D (sequence) and 2D linear structure of coding and non-coding sequences
4.4. 3d organization of the genome, human and yeast chromosome examples
4.5. Origins of variation: splice variants, mutations, TNs, paralogs
4.6. Transcription; monocistronic and polycistronic
4.7. Regulation of transcription: Thermodynamics
4.8. Regulation of transcription: Kinetics
4.9. Overview of translation (includes nuclear export)
4.10 Regulation of translation (examples)

Module 5: Biological machines and ensembles
5.1. Physical properties of the cytoplasm
5.2. Molecular self-assembly I: Phase separation (thermodynamic models)
5.3. Molecular self-assembly II: Polymerization (kinetic models) and polymer mechanics
5.4. The cytoskeleton- actin and microtubules (structure of monomer and polymer, etc)
5.5. DNA and RNA replication machineries
5.6. Intracellular transport I: passive mechanisms, diffusion
5.7. Intracellular transport II: active mechanisms, molecular motors

Module 6: Control in cell division
6.1. Oscillators, feedback, noise
6.2. Biological control; oscillators, feedback, thresholds in detail
6.3. Control of cell cycle transitions
6.4. Dynamics in mitosis I; DNA replication, DNA repair
6.5. Dynamics in mitosis II; chromosome segregation machinery
6.6. Checkpoint examples, biophysical perspectives

Module 7: Cell signaling and polarity
7.1. Overview of symmetry breaking, emergent polarity
7.2. Cell morphology/polarization through intracellular signaling; receptor G-protein signaling (mating pathway example); small GTPases Cdc42, Rho etc.
7.3. Asymmetric cell divisions, stem cells
7.4. Secretory machineries; endo and exocytosis
7.5. Cellular interactions (ECM) through intercellular signaling (delta/notch)
7.6. Enforcing properties among cells in tissues (planar polarity)

Module 8: Neuroscience
8.1. Neurons and electrical potential, transduction
8.2. Neurotransmitters, control
8.3. Example of a simple circuit

Molecular Biology of the Cell by B. Alberts, Garland, 6th ed., 2014; and assigned readings
3 Lectures plus 1 compulsory tutorial per week

Quizzes and final exam

McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).

Last update: March 2, 2018