Cell Signalling - BI602

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
(version 2)
Autumn 6 15 (7.5) DR B Goult checkmark-circle


A synopsis of the curriculum
The module begins by overviewing the diverse mechanisms used by cells to communicate, considering the main modes of cell-cell communication, the major classes of signalling molecules and the receptor types upon which they act. It then focuses on nuclear, G-protein coupled, and enzyme linked receptors covering in molecular detail these receptors and their associated signal transduction pathways.

Principles of Cell Signalling.
Cell Adhesion and Cell Communication (adhesion and gap junctions).
Signalling Molecules: Hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors.
Receptor Types: Nuclear, G-protein coupled, Ion-channel linked, Enzyme-linked.

Nuclear Receptors:
Cellular location and molecular organisation of receptors. Structure/function/activity relationships. Receptors as sequence-specific DNA binding proteins.

G-Protein Coupled Receptors:
Receptors coupled to heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide binding proteins (G proteins). Composition and classification of G-proteins, their activation and modulation by toxins and disease.
Second Messengers and Protein Phosphorylation (kinases and phosphatases).
Cyclic Nucleotide-Dependent Systems: G proteins in regulation of adenylyl cyclase-cAMP-protein kinase A (PKA) and guanylyl cyclase-cGMP pathways. Physiological roles e.g. in visual transduction and glycogen metabolism.
Inositol lipids in signal transduction: Regulation of phospholipase C. Inositol polyphosphates (e.g. IP3) and diacylglycerol (DAG) in regulation of Ca++-dependent kinases. Roles in specific cellular responses e.g. regulation of protein kinase C.

Interactions of Signalling Pathways:
'Cross-Talk' between different pathways and messenger molecules.

Enzyme Linked Receptors:
Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), e.g. epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF) family and insulin receptor, and their varied roles in cellular metabolism, cell behaviour, development and disease.
Molecular organisation of receptors, autophosphorylation of intracellular domains.
Intracellular signalling pathways: activation of monomeric G-protein Ras, leading to activation of the mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase cascade.
Integration of signalling components: Role of adapter proteins (e.g. GRB2) and their protein-protein interaction domains (SH2, SH3 etc.) in linking ligand-receptor complexes to intracellular proteins.

Practical: Characterisation of G-protein coupled receptors using a cAMP-linked reporter gene assay.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 32
Private study hours: 118
Total study hours: 150


It is required that you have taken all the core modules within stage 2 of one of our Bioscience programmes in order to take this module.

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Practical report (20%) - 2000 words
Test,1hr (short answer/mini essay questions (20%)
Exam, 2 hr (60%)

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% exam

Indicative reading

Recent editions of:
• Lodish H et al. Molecular Cell Biology, Freeman & Co
• Nelson, J, Structure and Function in Cell Signalling, John Wiley and Sons Ltd
• Hancock JT, Cell Signalling, Oxford University Press
• Lim W, Mayer B, Pawson T. Cell Signalling – Principles and Mechanisms, Garland Science

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
• Knowledge of the major classes of signalling molecules, their receptors and intracellular signalling pathways.
• Acquisition of practical and data handling skills associated with monitoring intracellular signalling.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
Have a knowledge and understanding of:
• Interpretation and retrieval of information.
• Analysis and evaluation of data.
• Written communication skills.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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