Biomolecules are naturally occurring molecules such as nucleic acids, lipids, sugars and proteins that are essential for normal cellular function. Understanding how these molecules work in terms of their individual architecture and how they interact in cells to form macromolecular ‘machines’ is important to medicine, drug design and bio- and nano-technology. This module aims to provide an introduction to the detailed structure of biomolecules (particularly nucleic acids and proteins), the different techniques used to determine this structure and how structural features define biological function. It will in particular introduce cutting-edge technologies used to investigate protein structure and behaviour from actually visualising molecules using cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography to determining how molecules move and interact using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). The uses, advantages and limitations of these techniques will be illustrated using case studies of specific macromolecular complexes, for example ribosome and ion channels.
On completion of this module students should have acquired a critical understanding of the approaches and methods for studying the structure, function and dynamics of biomolecules. Specifically students should be able to:
A. Explain the key structural features of biomolecules (nucleic acids and proteins) and describe how these features relate to biological function.
B. Discuss how knowledge of biomolecular structure relates to applications in medicine, the pharmaceutical industry and bio- and nano-technology
C. Describe techniques used to determine protein structure and dynamics and discuss the advantages and limitations of each technique
D. Discuss the structural basis of biological processes by describing the structure and function of macromolecular complexes of biomolecules.
Module content will be delivered by a combination of lectures and workshops. The contents of lectures (PDF files) are also available on Web. For workshops, each student will need a lap top computer with internet connection.