Signaling Mechanisms in Excitable Cells

Course Number: 
CONJ 531
Course Type: 
Currently Offered: 
Meeting Time: 
MWF 1030-1120
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Asbury, Charles
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Barria, Andres
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Gordon, Sharona
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Hille, Bertil
Instructor (MCB Faculty): 
Zagotta, William
Instructor (non-MCB Faculty): 
Sullivan, Jane
Course Description: 

Introduces biophysical properties of nerve and muscle cells. Topics include intrinsic electrical properties of neurons, ion channels, receptor signaling, calcium signaling, contraction of muscles, and synaptic function. 


The lectures assume biochemical knowledge at the level of an elementary biochemistry course, and all students are expected to have some background in the areas we will discuss at the level of general cell biology textbooks such as you will find in the Alberts textbook. We will assume you are at this introductory level before coming to the lecture. Alberts is an excellent general book that can help fill in missing background.
Course requirements, examinations and grading: 

HANDOUTS: Handouts will be given for each lecture. Extra copies of class handouts, homework and take-home exam will be accessible on our web page (see above).

HOMEWORK: There will be daily small assignments, also known as "Questions of the Day" and 6 larger problem sets with questions at the end of each section of the course. Your answers to the Questions of the Day will be collected daily before lecture and graded pass (1) fail (0). Your larger problem sets (please use a computer printer where possible) will be collected in class on the day marked on the lecture schedule. Homework should be turned in on time, before the class discussion or posting of the answers. Discussion and debate about the Questions of the Day is encouraged, but you are expected to formulate the answers on your own. Working together should never produce identical answers.
GRADES: Your final grade will be based on (1) written answers to daily Questions of the Day (worth a total of 20% of your grade) and (2) written answers to problem sets on original papers (worth 80% of your grade).

Course Web Page: contains at least:

---A copy of this schedule (updated if there are changes) with links to PowerPoint handouts.
---Links to electronic-reserve readings to the extent permitted by copyright laws.
---Any special notices and reminders
---Answers to problem sets.
---In lieu of a course bulletin board for appropriate course discussions you may want to have with peers, we
encourage you to use the class email list  to send questions of interest to the class. The
instructors will use this list to broadcast course information and answer questions. Students may also send
questions directly to individual instructors.
Sample Schedule:
Week Mon Wed Fri
1 Introduction to cell membranes Electrical properties of membranes Electrical signaling proteins: ion channels
2 An electrical signal: the action potential Molecular basis of ion channel function I: Mechanisms of permeation Molecular basis of ion channel function II: Mechanisms of gating
3 Mechanism of Ligand Gating: Principles Mechanism of Ligand Gating: Molecular Basis Membrane ligands
4 Mechanism of Ligand Gating: Multimodal Channels Basis of muscle contraction Force production by muscle myosin
5 Non-muscle motor proteins “Unconventional’ motors and motility Excitation-contraction coupling
Areas of Interest: 
Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions
Keystone Area: 
Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions
Elective Area: 
Molecular Structure & Computational Biology