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Unit information: Cell Signalling in 2020/21

Unit name Cell Signalling
Unit code MEDIM0013
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Anastasiades
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Medical School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences


The students are given a background in receptors and signal transduction; with emphasis on neuronal signalling.

The aims of the unit are to:

1. Provide a broad overview of cell-cell communication in the brain - introducing key concepts such as different mechanisms for achieving cell-cell communication, the types of molecules involved, the nature and classification of receptors, synaptic transmission and neuromodulation, the generation and exploitation of transmembrane ion gradients, the importance of protein phosphorylation, methods to study neuronal signalling (including optogenetics and calcium imaging).

2. To explain:

(a) signalling via ligand-gated ion channels using nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, Glutamate receptors and GABA receptors as examples.

(b) how signalling cascades control gene expression, and the cellular consequences of their activation.

(c) signalling via nitric oxide.

(d) signalling via GPCRs and the pathways through which they control neural activity.

(e) intracellular Ca2+ signalling and mechanisms of Ca2+ homeostasis.

(f) signalling via enzyme-containing receptors.

(g) signalling via tyrosine kinase associated receptors.

(h) vesicular transport with emphasis on the proteins and mechanisms regulating neurotransmitter release.

(i) how cells adapt their sensitivity to extracellular signalling molecules, emphasising the desensitisation and cycling of GPCRs.

(j) signalling pathways controlling cell fate and the cellular stress response.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit the student will have good knowledge of molecular neuropharmacology and cell signalling. They will apply this to understand neuronal signalling in health and disease.

Teaching details

This unit is taught primarily through online lectures and group tutorials some of which may be synchronous online or in person, which will expose students to cutting-edge research methods in neuroscience. Students will also be given the opportunity to develop their problem-solving skills through data interpretation tasks.

Assessment Details

The unit will be assessed by a 3,000 word essay (50% of marks) and a data interpretation exam (50% of marks)

Reading and References

Selected relevant review papers from the literature.