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Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Merchant Taylors’ School

AS Biology Revision Notes

“Science is organised knowledge. Wisdom is
organised life” - Kant
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

A word of caution

These revision notes are designed to help you, NOT do the job of revision
for you. Ultimately, only you can learn this material: you can’t pay, cajole
or persuade anyone to do it for you! Additionally, these notes are the bare
bones (your text book and class notes are almost certainly better sources
of information if you’re aiming for the highest grades). So treat these
notes as a minimalist approach for someone aiming for a solid B grade. At
this point you might want to get your own notes to cross-reference with
the material here. Why not add your own annotations to improve what’s
already here?

Understanding the jargon:

1. The 9 Core Practicals are not discussed here.
Don’t forget to revise them too!

2. All Key Words are given underlined in red, these
are words specifically mentioned on the syllabus!

3. There are many blue “How Science Works” boxes
in the text book. In past years these have almost
always been the basis of a number of exam
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Edexcel AS Revision
Unit 1: Lifestyle, Transport, Genes &
Topic 1: Lifestyle, health & Risk


Water molecules are polar

H = Positively charged (δ+)
O = Negatively charged (δ-)

This allows them to form Hydrogen
Bonds with other water molecules. This
gives water some useful properties;

Property Explanation
Less dense as a solid Arctic ecosystems float, ice insulates water beneath it
High SHC Cells do not heat up or cool down easily, therefore can
hold a fairly stable temp. (cf enzymes)
Present naturally in all Allows the water cycle to function
three states
Transparent Allows photosynthesis underwater
Cohesion Generates surface tension, capillary uptake,
transpiration etc
Good solvent Essential role in transport in biological systems
Immiscible with Allows membranes to form and, therefore, control
hydrophobic molecules movement in / out of cells
High latent heat of Evaporation of water has a strong cooling effect and
evaporation comparatively little water is required to lose a lot of
Buffer Water is capable of accepting and donating protons,
therefore acts as a buffer
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Saccharides are made from sugar molecules, which are made from
combinations of the elements Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen only

Saccharides are used for;

1. Fuels for respiration (e.g. glucose)
2. Energy storage molecules (e.g. starch and glycogen)
3. Structural molecules (e.g. cellulose)

Monosaccharides – one sugar molecule only
Disaccharides – two sugar molecules joined together
Oligosaccharides – a few sugar molecules joined together
Polysaccharides – many sugar molecules joined together

Disaccharide Name Component monosaccharides
Maltose Glucose + Glucose
Sucrose Glucose + Fructose
Lactose Glucose + Galactose

You need to know the different structures of glucose. You should
be able to draw this out if requested.



α Glucose Β Glucose
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

There are three polysaccharides specifically mentioned on your
syllabus (starch, glycogen and cellulose). Cellulose is in Topic 4
(2.4.3) but is included here for reference.

Polysaccharide Structure and Function
Glycogen 1. Made from Poly (α Glucose).

2. Found in muscle and liver cells for energy storage

3. Insoluble, so no osmotic effect in tissues

4. Lots of branches (i.e. 1-6 glycosidic bonds present),
which allows quick access to glucose

5. Compact shape, so good for storage

Starch 1. Actually made from two molecules in combination;
Amylose and Amylopectin

2. Both are made from Poly (α Glucose).

3. Found in Amyloplasts (starch grains) inside plant
cells for energy storage

4. Insoluble, so no osmotic effect in tissues

5. Amylose has no branches (i.e. 1-4 glycosidic bonds
only), so access to glucose is slow

6. Amylopectin has some branches (i.e. both 1-4 & 1-6
glycosidic bonds)

Cellulose 1. Made from Poly (β Glucose).

2. Main component of cell walls as it is a very strong
structural molecule

3. Insoluble… for obvious reasons!

4. Cellulose has no branches (i.e. 1-4 glycosidic bonds
only), so adjacent cellulose chains line up close

5. Hydrogen bonds form between adjacent chains,
creating very strong cellulose fibrils
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Saccharides join together in condensation reactions, which produce
water. A glycosidic bond forms between the saccharide molecules.

The opposite of a condensation reaction is a hydrolysis. This

1. Heat + HCL
2. OR an enzyme (e.g. Amylase)

Tests for Sacharides:

- Iodine solution turns brown → blue/black in the presence of starch

- Benedict’s solution turns blue → brick red in the presence of a
reducing sugar

- Non reducing sugars (most disaccharides and all polysaccharides) will
give a positive result to Benedict’s if heated in acid first.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Triglycerides are either fats or oils. They are made from the
elements C, H & O only.

Triglycerides are used for;

1. Long term energy storage molecules
2. Insulation
3. Protection (e.g. pericardium)
4. Buoyancy
5. Synthesis of specific hormones (e.g. steroids)

Triglycerides are formed in
condensation reactions between;

1 x glycerol
3 x fatty acid

An ester bond forms between the
fatty acid and the glycerol

Saturated triglycerides have no
C=C bonds in them. They form fats.

Unsaturated triglycerides DO have
C=C bonds in them. They form oils.

The C=C bonds form ‘kinks’ in the fatty acid chains, which push
adjacent triglycerides away from each other. This lowers the
effect of intermolecular forces (e.g. van der vaal’s forces), which
lowers the boiling and melting temp.

Test for a triglyceride (Emulsion test):

1. Add ethanol (dissolves fat)
2. Add water
3. White precipitate indicates a positive result
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Fick’s law:

Rate of Diffusion = Surface Area x Conc Gradient


If we apply this to a cube, the rate at which O2 reaches the centre
of the cube is a product of the ratio of the Surface Area compared
to the Volume (i.e. SA:Vol)

Amoeba Large SA:Vol ratio Can rely on diffusion through its

Human Small SA:Vol ratio Diffusion through surface is too slow
to supply O2. Therefore require a mass
transport system and specialized
exchange organs

In humans the mass transport system is the circulatory system and
the heart. The specialized exchange organs include the lungs and
the digestive system.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


You need to know;

1. the names of the 4 chambers of the heart

2. the names of the 2 arteries and 2 veins attached to the heart

3. The names of the two sets of valves in the heart

4. The cardiac cycle

5. The initiation and conduction pathways of the heartbeat

Vena Cava

Pulmonary Artery

Semi-lunar Valve

Cuspid Valve

Vena Cava

Contraction in the heart:

Remember, the atria contract first. The L & R atria contract at
the same time. The ventricles contract second. The L & R
Ventricles contract at the same time.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

0 – 0.2s Atrial Systole The atria contract, atrial pressure rises and
blood is pushed from atria → ventricles
0.2 – 0.3s Ventricular The ventricles contract, ventricular pressure
Systole rises above atrial pressure and the cuspid valves
shut (1)

Ventricular pressure rises, but no blood leaves
the heart yet!

When ventricular pressure rises above pressure
in the arteries the semi-lunar valves open (2)

Blood leaves the heart
0.3 – 0.4s Diastole The ventricles relax. Ventricular pressure falls
and when pressure in the arteries > ventricular
pressure the semi-lunar valves shut (3).
0.4 – 0.7s Diastole The entire heart is relaxed. The cuspid valves
open (4) and both atria and ventricles fill with
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

SAN: Sino-Atrial Node

AVN: Atro-Ventricular Node

Purkinje Fibres (in bundle of His)

1. SAN sends a wave of electrical activity (depolarization)
around the walls of the atria.

2. A ring of insulating tissue blocks the wave from passing into
the ventricles.

3. The AVN conducts the wave into the Ventricles slowly, which
gives the ventricles time to fill.

4. The Purkinje fibres are fast-conducting and take the wave to
the apex of the heart first, so the ventricles contract bottom


collagen &
connective tissue
smooth muscle
& elastic tissue

lumen (blood)


Arteries carry high pressure blood away from the heart.

Key Points:
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

1. Thick muscle layer to withstand high pressure blood
2. Elastic tissue allows artery to stretch when blood is forced
into it. The elastic layer recoils during diastole, converting
pulsatile into laminar (continuous) blood flow.
3. Protective collagen layer
4. Round shape
5. Relatively small lumen


collagen &
connective tissue
smooth muscle
& elastic tissue
semilunar valve
lumen (blood)
Veins carry low pressure blood towards the heart.

Key Points:

1. Thin muscle layer (low pressure blood)
2. Valve to stop backflow
3. Protective collagen layer
4. Not a round shape (wall not thick enough to hold shape)
5. Large lumen (decreases effect of friction)

Small holemembrane
endothelium cell

red blood cell

8 µm
Capillaries are adapted for exchange – they are not connected
directly to the heart.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Key Points:

1. Walls are one cell thick (cells are called endothelial cells)
2. Lumen is the same width as one RBC (therefore more of RBC
in contact with wall, therefore smaller diffusion distance)
3. No muscle or elastic tissue
4. Tiny (compare the scales and remind yourself what a чm is)


Dig up your Daphnia Core Practical notes in the Practical

1.1.10 & 1.1.11

Atherosclerosis is a disease in which the wall of arteries becomes
furred up with fatty deposits called plaques or atheromas. The
sequence of atherosclerosis is as follows;

1. Endothelial layer on the inside of an artery is damaged

2. Inflammation (an A2 topic) of the artery wall occurs

3. White blood cells move into the artery wall

4. Cholesterol begins to accumulate at the site of damage

5. Atheroma forms
As hypertension speeds atheroma
6. Lumen narrows formation these steps are a vicious
7. Pressure increases cycle!

After atherosclerosis has developed there is a chance that a blood
clot might form in the damaged area. This makes the problem much
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Clot formation:

1. Platelets are activated by substances released by the
damaged artery wall

2. Platelets become “sticky” and form a “platelet plug” on the
surface of the atheroma

3. Platelet plus releases chemicals which activate thromboplastin

4. Thromboplastin initiates the clotting cascade


There is a real danger of the blood clot becoming dislodged from
the site of formation. It could be carried around the bloodstream
and deposited elsewhere. If this occurs;

- in the brain a stroke occurs
- in the coronary arteries, CHD or even an infarction might occur
- anywhere else, ischaemia and even gangrene are possible


Risk factors for CVD. There are lots, but these 7 are specifically
mentioned on your syllabus
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Risk Factor Explanation
Age Atherosclerosis occurs naturally as our arteries become
less elastic with age. Less elastic = higher pressure
during systole, ∴ hypertension, ∴ atherosclerosis…
Gender Girls have less atherosclerosis: fact. Two explanations;

1. Girls make oestrogen, which has a protective effect
against atherosclerosis. Evidence to support this theory
is that incidence of atherosclerosis in post-menopausal
women rises to that of men.

2. Women tend to have less stressful jobs / be at home
more ∴ less stress ∴ less hypertension, etc
Hypertension Speeds up atheroma formation AND causes endothelial
damage (which is the 1st step in atherosclerosis)
Smoking Nicotine is very, very good at damaging the endothelium.
Remember that next time you’re tempted to dally behind
the bike shed…
Inactivity Allsorts of factors here;
- lower BMI = less hypertension
- fitter heart = less hypertension
- exercise decreases LDL levels
- exercise increases metabolic rate ∴ lowering BMI
- Possibly some indirect contributing factors as well…
if you exercise regularly you probably put stock in
looking after yourself ∴ are you likely to be
smoking or drinking as well?
Genetic predisposition Some alleles give you less protection from / greater risk
of developing atherosclerosis. To an extent, a higher
chance of getting atherosclerosis does run in families
Diet Millions of contributing factors here;
- High salt intake causes hypertension
- Eating saturated fats decreases HDL level
- Eating more calories than you need causes BMI to
increase. High BMI is associated with
- Alcohol causes hypertension directly
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Drug treatments for atherosclerosis and their side effects;


Diuretics – The Loop of Henle is the part of the nephron (in the
kidney) that regulates water reabsorption. Essentially, it puts Na+
back into the blood by active transport. This lowers the water
potential in the blood, so water follows the Na+ by osmosis. Most
diuretics block the protein that actively transports the Na+, so less
water is returned to the blood, thus reducing the pressure.

Three problems with this, however;

1. The blood gets more viscous, which makes the heart beat
2. Dehydration can occur
3. Only treating the symptom

β Blockers – block the adrenaline receptor in the heart. This stops
the heart from beating harder in response to stress and, therefore,
reduces hypertension.

There are some side effects in some cases (e.g. sleep disturbance,
depression, vasoconstriction of the extremities) but generally
they’re pretty good. One of the main problems is bradycardia,
which can become serious if you have CHD. Can you explain why?

Ca2+ channel blockers – stop the heart muscle from contracting too
hard. You don’t need to know why, but if you’re interested look up
Starling’s Law of the heart…

Major side effect is arrhythmia, which can develop into fibrillation
and infarction.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

ACE Inhibitors – are REALLY complicated, but I don’t know how
much of this you’re supposed to know, so here is the full version of
Renin Enzyme ACE Enzyme
Angiotensinogen Angiotensin I Angiotensin II

A protein made by An intermediate, The important one!
the kidneys, which also circulating in This is the hormone
circulates in the the blood that increases blood
blood pressure!

Basically, our kidneys make Angiotensinogen all the time, but it
doesn’t do anything itself (its not a hormone) it just circulates in
the blood. However, when we are hyoptensive (i.e. have low blood
pressure) the kidneys start to make Renin enzyme, which turns
Antiotensinogen into Angiotensin I. After this, ACE enzymes (found
in the endothelial cells lining arteries) quickly turn the Antiotensin I
into Angiotensin II, which is a powerful hormone. It has the
following effects;

1. General vasoconstriction
2. Causes the hypothalamus to release ADH (look it up from
GCSE, it was in Unit 3), which increases water reabsorption by
the kidney
3. Stimulates the brain to release aldosterone, which causes the
kidneys to increase salt reabsorption, which in turn increases
water reabsorption.

All of these effects increase blood pressure, so ACE inhibitors will,
therefore, do the opposite.

The major side effect is kidney failure.

Vasodilators – dilate blood vessels, reducing blood pressure.

If this occurs too much you get hypotension, which can cause heart
attacks (not enough blood returns to the heart to fill it properly)
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Two effects;

1. Block an enzyme in the liver that makes cholesterol.
2. Remove LDL from the circulation

Associated with liver failure.


As the second stage of atherosclerosis is associated with blood
clotting (thrombosis), anticoagulants block the clotting process.
There are many, many different ways of doing this.

Blood clots slowly.

Platelet inhibitory drugs

These work in the same way as anticoagulants but target platelets,
which are required to activate the clotting process. They,
therefore, have the same side-effects.


Cholesterol is the major component in atheromas. High blood
cholesterol level is, therefore, a bad thing. We get cholesterol from
two sources;

1. Diet
2. It is made by the liver

Lipoproteins (also made by the liver) ferry cholesterol around in the
bloodstream and play a role in pushing the liver towards making
more cholesterol, or excreting more cholesterol. There are two
types of lipoprotein;
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) take cholesterol out of the
circulation to the liver, where it is converted into bile salts and
(ultimately) excreted. HDLs lower cholesterol levels.

Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) take cholesterol from the liver and
put it into the circulation to the liver. LDLs increase cholesterol


High HDL = good High LDL = bad
High cholesterol = bad

You need to understand that scientists use their scientific
knowledge of the effects of diet, exercise and smoking to try and
predict risk of CVD and, therefore, to give people advice about how
to reduce their risk.


Dig up your Vitamin C Core Practical notes in the Practical


Body Mass Index = Mass


Your energy budget balances the number of calories you require
with those that you consume. Ideally, they ought to be the same.

Energy consumed > Energy expended → mass gain
Energy consumed < Energy expended → mass lost

BMI < 18.5 Underweight
BMI between 18.5 and 25 Normal
BMI between 25 and 30 Overweight
BMI > 40 Obese
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

1.1.18 & 1.1.19

You need to be able to analyze data on mortality rates to determine
health risk. Be careful!

If two sets of data follow the same pattern they are correlated

If two sets of data follow the same pattern because one factor
directly affects the other they are causal

In order to assess whether data is correlated or causal scientists
experiment, the idea being to try and falsify the Null Hypothesis
that one factor does not affect the other. However, be aware that
the design of the experiment often affects the results. Things to
watch out for;

1. People selected were not representative of the population
(e.g. all students, all female, etc) i.e. not accurate

2. Only a few people were involved in the experiment (i.e. not
very reliable)

3. Not all the variables were controlled i.e. a systematic error in
the experiment (i.e. smokers included with non-smokers)

If you get a question on this section of the syllabus always


Why might people’s perception of risk be different from the actual

1. They don’t understand the risk fully and underestimate it (e.g.
if you smoke your risk of CVD is X and if you are obese your
risk of CVD is Y. BUT if you are both your risk is not X + Y
but XY… much greater!)
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

2. They don’t understand the risk fully and overestimate it (e.g.
the person who thinks they actually might win the lottery this

Broadly speaking, risk factors for CVD tend to be underestimated
because people don’t realise that risk factors tend to be associated
with other i.e. if you smoke and drink and are obese, chances are
you also eat a diet high in saturated fat and salt. Quite quickly the
risks stack up…

Oxygen Dissociation Curve

This is not mentioned on the syllabus, but it is in the text book. The
prudent man learns it anyway…

Remember, each Haemoglobin (Hb) can bind up to 4 O2 molecules.
The affinity of Hb for O2 changes depending on how many O2 are
being carried.

A: The haemoglobin is in the lung and is O2 loading. Affinity of Hb is
high, therefore it “fills up” with O2 easily.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

B: The haemoglobin is in the respiring tissues. Initially affinity is
high, so Hb does not give O2 away easily to tissues that already have
enough. However, when Hb gives up its 1st O2 the affinity suddenly
drops, so Hb tends to unload 3 O2 just where it is required!

C: With 3 O2 removed the affinity is high again, so the last O2 is
kept as an “emergency”. It is only given up if the Hb passes through
tissues with very low PO2

When the line shifts position

1. Foetal Hb has a higher affinity than adult Hb. This is so the
foetus will load with O2 from the maternal Hb. Foetal ends
with L, therefore shifts to the LEFT

2. Llamas (starts with L) live at altitude and need to have Hb
with higher affinity to load O2 in the thin air.

3. Myoglobin (has an L in it) is an O2 store in muscles. It has
very, very high affinity for O2 so only gives off O2 when in the
“emergency” section of the graph. Whales and diving mammals
have vast quantities of myoglobin in their muscles.

4. Bohr (ends in R) shift occurs when Hb is exposed to acid. The
affinity drops and O2 is unloaded more easily. Acids tend to

- carbonic acid (made from CO2)
- lactic acid (made in anaerobic respiration)

Both acids are produced when O2 is in short supply, so it
makes sense for Hb to give up more O2 in these

End of Topic 1
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Edexcel AS Revision
Unit 1: Lifestyle, Notes
Lifestyle, Transport, Genes &
Topic 2: Genes & Health


Charged phosphate “head” ∴ hydrophilic

Uncharged fatty acid “tails” ∴ hydrophobic

Cell membranes are made from a double layer (bilayer) of
phospholipids, which align “heads” inwards and “tails” outward
because of their attraction / repulsion from water. Sat in teh
membrane are transmembrane proteins. The proteins have a number
of roles;

- channels into / out of the cell (see 1.2.4)

- receptors for hormones (tend to be glycoproteins)

- cellular “glue” joining adjacent cells together (look up
desmosomes if you’re interested)

- anchors for the cytoskeleton
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


“Osmosis is the movement of water molecules from high
concentration to low concentration through a partially permeable

Water molecules cannot pass through the bilayer itself because
they are charged and are repulsed by the fatty acid “tails”. There
are a few theories about how the water actually gets through, but
these are the best so far;

1. Passes through special channels called aquaporins
2. Moves through ion channel as ligands on ion complexes (e.g.
with Na+ or Mg2+)


How do molecules move in / out of the membrane?

1. Uncharged hydrophobic molecules (e.g. steroid hormones,
cholesterol, ethanol) pass freely between fatty acid tails by

2. Large hydrophilic molecules (e.g. enzymes) move in by
endocytosis and out by exocytosis

3. Small hydrophilic molecules (e.g. glucose, mineral ions, water)
move in and out via proteins in the membrane. There are 3
types of these;

Channel Proteins
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Movement is governed by molecules diffusing freely through the
channel. Sometimes the channel will only open under specific
circumstances (i.e. if a certain hormone is present, or under certain
environmental conditions e.g. temp, pressure etc). These are gated
channel proteins

Facilitated Diffusion proteins

1 2 3

Protein channel has an active site specific to a particular hydrophilic
molecule. It attaches to the molecule, spins around in the membrane
and deposits it on the other side. Movement is governed by the
concentration gradient.

Active Transport proteins

As above, but the movement is against the concentration gradient.
Energy (in the form of ATP) is required to get movement to occur.


Dig up your Beetroot Core Practical notes in the Practical


Fick’s law:

Rate of Diffusion = Surface Area x Conc Gradient

Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness
Human Respiratory System

Larynx (voicebox)



Alveolus Bronchus

Intercostal Muscle

Thoracic Cavity
contained within
pleural membranes

You should be able to explain breathing in terms of volume and
pressure changes in the Thoracic Cavity (GCSE idea)

Adaptations for rapid gas exchange (all related to Fick’s Law)

Element of Fick’s Law Adaptation
Surface Area Each alveolus has a small SA, but there are
millions, which produces a huge total SA
Distance Each alveolus is one cell thick, as are the
capillaries which surround them. Therefore, the
total diffusion distance is only two cells!
Conc Gradient Ventilation maintains a constantly high PO2 in
the alveoli. Additionally, as soon as O2 has been
collected by haemoglobin the circulation
removes it, therefore maintaining a low PO2 in
the blood. This keeps the concentration
gradient high!

Remind yourself why humans need lungs in the first place, why
can’t we just breathe through our skin like Amoeba do?
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Proteins are polymers of
amino acids. There are
~20 amino acids, each of
which has the same basic
structure with a different
variable group (R group)

Amino acids are connected by peptide bonds. They are formed in
condensation reactions and broken up in hydrolysis reactions.

Test for Protein:

- Biuret solution turns blue → “purple halo” in the presence of protein

Primary Structure – a long chain of amino acids
connected by peptide bonds. Most proteins do
not function in their primary form

Secondary Structure – the long chain of amino
acids is folded into two types of structure;

- Alpha helix
- Beta sheet

Both are held together by hydrogen bonds
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Tertiary Structure – sections of secondary
structure are folded up further, forming a
protein with a 3D shape. The shape is held
together by covalent bonds (e.g. disulphide
bridges) between R groups of specific amino

Quarternary Structure – formed when two or
more tertiary proteins are combined e.g.
haemoglobin is made from 4 x haem proteins

As the shape of a protein determines its function (think about the
active site of an enzyme, for example) it is really important that all
the bonds holding the shape together form in the right places. The
most important bonds are those that hold the 3o and 4o structure
together and these all form between R groups of specific amino
acids. Therefore;

The specific sequence of specific amino acids determines
the shape of the protein and, therefore, its function.


In the Lock and Key hypothesis, the active site and the substrate
are completely complementary.

1. Substrate diffuses into the active site
2. Substrate binds to the active site
3. Bonds in the substrate are broken as a result
4. Products form and unbind from the active site
5. Products diffuse out of the active site
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

In the Induced Fit hypothesis the mechanism of action is the same
except that the active site changes shape to fit the substrate once
the substrate has bound. The shape change causes bonds in the
substrate to break, forming the products.

All enzymes work by reducing the Activation Energy (Ea). This is
the energy required to get the reaction to start. Enzymes provide
an alternate reaction pathway (i.e. a different way for the reaction
to happen – in the active site), which requires less energy to start.


Dig up your Enzyme Core Practical notes in the Practical


DNA is made from many nucleotides joined together. It is,
therefore, a polynucleotide

Each nucleotide contains 3 things;

(i) Sugar molecule,
(ii) Nitrogenous base
(iii) Phosphate group (negatively charged)
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

H / OH

There are 2 types of nucleotide;

(i) Ribose nucleotides - make RNA
(ii) Deoxyribone nucltodies - make DNA

DNA nucleotides have 2H atoms on the C2 carbon atom
RNA nucleotides have an H and an OH on the C2 carbon

Other differences:

• RNA is single – stranded, DNA is double – stranded
• RNA has different bases
• RNA used to make 3 different things (mRNA, tRNA & rRNA),
DNA only used to determine genetic code
• DNA only found in nucleus, RNA in nucleus & cytoplasm

Polynucleotides are formed by connecting the
phosphate group of one nucleotide with the 3rd
carbon atom of another, forming the Sugar-
Phosphate Backbone

DNA is made from 2 strands of DNA polynucleotides,
held together by hydrogen bonds between the bases.
Because the strands face in opposite directions DNA
is an antiparallel molecule.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Adenine (A) pairs with Thymine (T) Adenine (A) pairs with Uracil (T)
Guanine (G) pairs with Cytosine (C) Guanine (G) pairs with Cytosine (C)

DNA synthesis is semi-conservative
DNA Synthesis: (i.e. half of each new strand is old DNA
& half is new DNA)

1. Helicase unwinds the DNA
forming the replication fork.

2. New nucleotides diffuse into the
fork and hydrogen bind with their
complementary partners

3. DNA Polymerase joins the
nucleotides together forming the
new sugar phosphate backbone

You can make this more complicated by
looking closely at what happens on the
lagging strand, but you don’t need to
know it (if you’re interested look up
“Okazaki fragments”)

The proof that DNA Replication is semi-conservative (rather than
conservative, or dispersive – the other theories) was provided by
Meselson & Stahl. Their experiment is shown on the next page (you
need to know what they did), but you should be able to interpret
their results as follows;

Original DNA, all heavy ∴ DNA band at bottom of centrifuge

1st generation DNA, ½ old, ½ new ∴ DNA band in middle of centrifuge

2nd generation DNA, some ½ and ½ (forms one band at top) & some all
new ∴ second band in the middle of centrifuge. No other theory
predicts formation of TWO BANDS
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

1.2.12 & 1.1.13

The genetic code is read from the sequence of bases in the DNA.
Each of the ~30,000 instructions in the code is a gene and tells the
body how to make one specific protein. Genes, therefore, code for

The genetic code is read in sequences of 3 bases, called codons each
codon represents one specific amino acid.

A Gene

e.g. in this gene the code is ATG CCA CTA GCA CGC, which
corresponds to the following amino acids

A Protein


Protein Synthesis occurs in two stages;

(i) Transcription

(ii) Translation
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


• Takes place in nucleus
• A complementary copy of the gene is made using RNA

1. Gene opens up. Hydrogen bonds break between bases

2. RNA nucleotides attracted to complementary bases and form
hydrogen bonds.

3. RNA nucleotides joined together by enzyme RNA Polymerase.

4. Complementary RNA copy of gene now made. It is called mRNA
(messenger RNA)

5. Single stranded mRNA molecule diffuses out of gene

6. mRNA molecule leaves nucleus through nuclear pore (large holes
in nuclear envelope)

7. Many mRNA strands are made before gene closes.

MRNA is complementary, not a copy!




• Takes place in cytoplasm
• MRNA code read by ribosome and amino acids assembled in
correct order to make protein

1. mRNA strand binds to cleft in ribosome. Start AUG codon fits
into bottom of P site

2. tRNA diffuses into P site and recognises the mRNA codon using
its specific anticodon
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

3. A second tRNA diffuses into the A site and recognises the
mRNA codon there.

4. The amino acids between the two tRNAs join together forming a
peptide bond

5. The tRNA in the P site diffuses into the cytoplasm and binds to
another specific amino acid.

6. The ribosome moves one codon down the mRNA chain so that the
P site is filled with the tRNA from the A site and the A site is

7. When the ribosome reaches the stop codon it releases the
mRNA and the amino acid chain.

Most ribosomes translate whilst attached to the rER. The
completed primary protein is inserted into the rER, where enzymes
fold it into its secondary and tertiary shape.

Many ribosomes can translate the same piece of mRNA at the same
time. A polysome forms
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

A Mutation = a change in the genetic code.

By changing the genetic code mutations ultimately change the
sequence of amino acids in primary proteins. This changes the
sequence of R groups in the protein and, therefore, the way in which
the protein folds up. This affects on the function of the protein

Mutation Explanation
The function of the protein is unchanged after the
mutation (i.e. the protein still does its job as well as it
did before the mutation). There are 2 possible causes;

One codon is altered. However, the codon still codes
for the same amino acid. Therefore, the protein is the
Neutral mutations

A codon is changed, leading to a different amino acid in
the primary protein. However, this protein is not in a
place crucial for folding, so the protein is still the same
shape and functions the same.
A nucleotide is deleted from the DNA code, which
Deletion mutations changes all the codons after the deletion. This causes
A nucleotide is inserted into the DNA code, which
Insertion mutations changes all the codons after the insertion. This causes
All the codons in the sequence are altered, meaning
Frame-shift that every amino acid after the addition / deletion is
mutations different. Normally, this has a huge impact on the
function of the protein.
One of the altered codons in the frame-shifted
sequence changes to become a stop codon. Protein
Non-sense mutations synthesis stops half-way through the gene, resulting in
only half of the protein being made. Almost always the
protein does not function.

Any mutation in the CFTR gene that stops / impairs the function of
the CFTR protein causes Cystic Fibrosis. To date over 2000
different mutations have been catalogued, each of which causes CF.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Key Definitions:

Gene: a sequence of DNA coding for a specific protein

Allele: an alternative version of a gene

Genotype: the pair of alleles an individual possesses

Phenotype: the physical appearance

Recessive: allele does not affect the phenotype in the presence of a
Dominant allele

Dominant: always affects the phenotype

Homozygote: individual possesses two copies of the same allele

Heterozygote: individual possesses two different alleles

A Genetic Diagram
♀ ♂
Parents’ Phenotype: Brown eyes Brown eyes

Parents’ Genotype: Bb Bb

Gametes: B b B b

F1 Genotype: B b


b Bb bb

F1 Phenotype: 3 : 1 Brown eyes : blue eyes

Note the gametes are always put in circles
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness
Disease Heritability Effect
A mutation in the haemoglobin genes Cause
haemoglobin molecules to stick together inside
red blood cells. RBCs become distorted into a
Sickle Cell Anaemia Recessive
“sickle” shape. They can become stuck inside
capillaries leading to clots and stroke. RBCs have
limited oxygen carrying capacity.
A mutation in (usually) the gene coding for alpha
haem causes very slow haemoglobin production.
Thalassaemia Recessive This results in anaemia and reduced haemocrit (%
RBCs per unit volume of blood). Regular
transfusions are required.
Caused by a mutation in one of genes controlling
collagen production in bones. As a result bone
Achondroplasia Dominant growth plates fuse too early, leading to
shortening of the long bones. Homozygous
dominant genotype is fatal.
A mutation in the gene coding for melanin protein
Albinism Recessive stops melanocytes from producing melanin.
Melanin colours hair, skin etc and provides
protection from UV rays.

You also need to interpret inheritance problems involving seed
morphology (shape) and plant height.


Goblet cells secrete mucus onto the surface of the epithelium,
which lines the lungs. Epithelial cells regulate the water content of
mucus. In the alveoli mucus is very watery to allow it to be wafted
easily by cilia. However, higher up the lungs water is drawn out of
mucus to reduce its volume: one cannot fit the mucus from 6 small
bronchioles into one larger one, so water is removed.

In Cystic Fibrosis the mechanism controlling the water content of
the mucus does not work properly and the water removal process is
constantly switched on in all parts of the lung. This means the
mucus is too sticky in the alveoli and cannot be wafted.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Normally: Cl- moves out of epithelial cells
into mucus via the CFTR protein.

Mucus Na+ is drawn into mucus to
balance the charge. Na+ passes
between epithelial cells.
The combined effect of Na+ and
Cl- reduces water concentration
making hypertonic mucus.

Water Tissue Fluid Water is drawn into mucus by
Na osmosis and mucus is dilute.

Cystic Fibrosis:

CFTR is blocked or absent, so
Cl- stays inside epithelial cells.

X Na+ does not move into mucus as
there is no charge to balance.

Mucus is hypotonic.

Water is drawn into epithelial
Tissue Fluid
cells by osmosis and mucus is
Na+ Water

The sticky mucus causes the effects of CF and affects;

a) Lungs,
b) Digestive system
c) Reproductive system
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Tissue Effect of CF
Mucus produced is too sticky and blocks the
alveoli. This makes the person breathless. The
mucus also provides ideal conditions for bacteria,
so chest infections are common.
Mucus blocks the vas deferens in boys and the
Reproductive fallopian tubes in girls, making the individual
system infertile

Mucus blocks the bile duct and the pancreatic
Digestion duct. Enzymes do not reach the small intestine and
food is not digested properly.


The problem with genetic diseases is that they are caused by a
mutation that is present in every cell of the body. In order to cure
the disease you need to change the DNA in every cell of the body,
which is impossible. However, in the case of CF because the CFTR
protein is only transcribed by epithelial cells (the cells lining the
lungs, digestive system and reproductive tracts) only these cells
need to be targeted.

So how can you change DNA inside living cells? Answer: use gene
therapy, which attempts to add a normal copy of the CFTR gene to
the DNA inside epithelial cells.

Gene Therapy (in humans – no plasmids are used)

Step 1: cut out a working copy of the gene from normal DNA using a
restriction enzyme. OR use reverse transcriptase enzyme to make
a copy of the gene from CFTR mRNA

Step 2: add the gene to a vector, which will insert the new gene into
the DNA of the target cell

Step 3: hope the gene is successfully incorporated in the DNA in
the nucleus
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Vectors are used to get the working gene into the epithelial cells.

Vector Explanation
An artificial vesicle. A little bubble of
membrane in which the CFTR gene is placed.
When the liposome is inhaled the gene can
enter the epithelial cell by endocytosis.
Viruses naturally insert their own DNA into
host cells DNA. So, if we remove the viral
DNA and replace it with the CFTR gene that
ought to be inserted instead.

Somatic Cells = Body cells. Somatic Cell Gene Therapy therefore
only affects the targeted cells

Germ Cells = Gametes. Germ Cell Gene Therapy therefore affects
the entire organism that is produced when the gamete is fertilised.

NB: Genetic engineering of bacteria is different and involves
plasmids and DNA ligase enzyme as well (look it up)


Genetic screening is used to determine whether a person has a
genetic disease or not.

Method Summary
A long needle is inserted through the mother’s
abdomen into the amniotic fluid of the developing
Amniocentesis embryo. As this is produced by the embryo it will
contain embryionic cells and, therefore, embryo
As above, but cells are taken from the placenta,
Chorionic villus
which is also made by the embryo.
Gametes are fertilized in vitro (outside of the
body) and the resultant embryos are then tested.
genetic diagnosis
Only embryos known NOT to have the disease are
implanted in the uterus.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Advantages of genetic testing Disdvantages of genetic testing

• Can opt for termination • Abortion is morally wrong
• Can get counselling • Tests can be inaccurate
• Can buy special medical • Small chance of test
equipment / care in resulting in miscarriage
preparation for birth • Unnatural procedure
• Can opt not to have children • Embryos right to life
(if parents are tested) • Embryos cannot give
• Utilitarian argument informed consent

End of Topic 2
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Edexcel AS Revision
Unit 2:
2: Development, Plants & the
Topic 3: The Voice of the Genome

2.3.2 & 2.3.3

Prokaryotic Cell

Prokaryotic Organelles:

Ribosomes. Same function as eukaryotic cells (protein synthesis),
but are smaller (70s rather than 80s).

Nuclear Zone. The region of the cytoplasm that contains DNA.
There is no nuclear membrane.

DNA. Always circular, and not in chromosome form.

Plasmid. Very small circles of DNA, containing non-esential genes.
Can be exchanged between different bacterial cells.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Cell membrane. made of phospholipids and proteins, like eukaryotic

Mesosome. Tightly-folded region of the cell membrane containing all
the proteins required for respiration and photosynthesis.

Cell Wall. DIFFERENT from plant cell wall. Made of murein (a
protein). There are two kinds of cell wall, which can be distinguished
by a Gram stain:

A: Gram positive bacteria have a thick cell wall and stain
B: Gram negative bacteria have a thin cell wall with an outer
lipid layer and stain pink.

Capsule (or Slime Layer). Thick polysaccharide layer outside of the
cell wall. Used for:

1. Sticking cells together
2. As a food reserve
3. As protection against desiccation (drying out) and chemicals,
and as protection against phagocytosis (being broken down by
a white blood cell).

Flagellum. A rotating tail used for propulsion.

Eukaryotic Cell
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Endoplasmic Reticulum. Site of protein folding (see 2.3.4)

Ribosome. Site of protein synthesis

Nucleus. DNA “store” & site of mRNA synthesis.

Golgi apparatus. Site of protein folding and packaging (see 2.3.4)

Centriole. Makes spindle protein, which pulls chromosomes apart
during cell division

Vesicle. “Bubble” of membrane, used to transport materials around a
cell and between cells

Lysosome. A vesicle filled with digestive enzymes. Protects against
bacterial attack and removes cell debris.

Cell membrane. Made of phospholipid and protein, controls
movement in / out of the cell

Mitochondrion. Site of respiration

Chloroplast. Site of photosynthesis

Prokaryotic Cells Eukaryotic cells

Small cells (< 5 mm) Larger cells (> 10 mm)

Always unicellular Often multicellular

No nucleus or any membrane- Always have nucleus and other
bound organelles membrane-bound organelles
DNA is linear and associated
DNA is circular, without proteins
with proteins to form chromatin

Ribosomes are small (70S) Ribosomes are large (80S)

No cytoskeleton Has a cytoskeleton
Cell division is by mitosis or
Cell division is by binary fission

Reproduction is always asexual Reproduction is asexual or sexual
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Amino acids are “stuck together” in the correct order during
translation. This take place using ribosomes, which are therefore
the site of protein synthesis.

After synthesis, proteins are put into the rER, which folds primary
proteins into their specific secondary and tertiary forms. 20 and 30
proteins are packaged into vesicles and sent to the Golgi

In the Golgi, 30 proteins are stuck together to form completed 40
proteins. They are packaged into large secretory vesicles, which
bud off the Golgi and go the cell membrane for exocytosis. The
Golgi also makes lysosomes.


Tissue: a group of specialized cells, which all carry out the same

Organ: a group of different tissues.

Although every cell contains the entire library of genes, each tissue
only expresses a select few of them. This is because, as cells
become specialized, they progressively switch off genes. This is
called cell differentiation.
The Cell Cycle
G1 Phase: Growth phase
Approximately 40% of cell cycle

S Phase: DNA replication occurs
Approximately 45% of cell cycle

G2 Phase: Preparation for mitosis
Organelles replicate

Mitosis: Cell divides
Approximately 10% of cell cycle

Cytokinesis: Cell physically splits
Approximately 5% of cell cycle
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Stage Explanation
Stage is: Prophase

1. DNA coils up onto chromosomes
2. Centriole divides
3. Centrioles move to cell poles
4. Nuclear envelope disappears

Stage is: Metaphase

1. Chromosomes move to equator
2. Spindle attaches to centromeres
3. Centrioles split
4. Chromatids separate

Stage is: Anaphase

1. Chromatids separate completely
2. New nuclear envelope grows

Stage is: Telophase

1. Cytokinesis occurs
2. Cells separate

Stage is: Interphase

As above (G1, S & G2)

Underlined comments = definition of stage end
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Dig up your Mitosis Core Practical notes in the
Practical Handbook

Mitosis produces genetically identical daughter cells, whereas
Meiosis produces genetically dissimilar gametes. The variation in
gametes comes from;

1. Random fusion of gametes

Each individual makes many gametes, each of which is
genetically different. This creates a huge number of
potentially different embryos as which two gametes are
selected for fertilization is largely random.

If the number of different gametes made by both parents is
n, therefore the total number of possibilities is n2, which is

2. Independent assortment

During meiosis, chromosomes pair up at the equator (they
don’t at during mitosis). Whichever way up the pair are aligned
will affect the combination of alleles in the gamete.

i.e. AA BB → AB aa BB → aB
aa bb → ab AA bb → Ab

3. Crossing Over

When the chromosomes are paired up during metaphase
sections of DNA are swapped between chromatids (this is
called crossing over). This means that alleles which were
previously linked with others (i.e. in set combinations of
alleles) become unlinked, thus increasing the potential
number of combinations of alleles
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


A Mammalian Ovum:

Follicle cells (from ovary)

Zona Pellucida




Lipid droplets

Cell membrane


Part of Ovum Adapted for…
Nucleus Contains only one copy of each chromosome

Follicle cells Secrete chemicals that secrete the acrosome

Cytoplasm Very large so fertilised cell can divide immediately

Lipid droplets Source of energy for future growth and division

Zona pelludica Hardens once sperm has entered ova, stops further
cells entering.

Lysosomes Cause the zona pellucida to harden once a sperm’s
nucleus has entered the ova.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

A Mammalian Sperm:


Part of Ovum Adapted for…
Nucleus Contains only one copy of each chromosome

Head Detachable. Contains the nucleus.

Middle Contains lots of mitochondria, which make ATP

Tail Made from motor proteins, which use ATP to propel
the sperm forwards

Acrosome An adapted lysosome on the top of the sperm’s
head. The acrosome swells and bursts when the
sperm embeds in the zona pellucida (zona pellucida
releases chemicals that trigger this). The enzymes
in the acrosome digest the follicle cells and the
zona pellucida and allow the cell membranes to fuse.

Cytoplasm Very little cytoplasm, which means cells are small
and therefore can be released in large numbers.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Fertilization is the successful fusion of two haploid gametes to
create a diploid cell (a zygote). The zygote then divides rapidly by
mitosis to become an embryo.

Mammalian fertilisation:

1. The sperm is attracted to the ovum by hormones released
by the follicle cells surrounding the ovum

2. When the sperm reaches the ovum it embeds its head in
the zona pellucida, triggering the acrosome reaction

3. The acrosome swells and bursts, releasing proteolytic

4. The enzymes digest a hole into the ovum

5. Sperm membrane fuses with ovum membrane and the
sperm nucleus enters the ovum by endocytosis

6. Lysosomes in the ovum cause the zona pellucida to harden
once the sperm’s nucleus has entered the ovum, stopping
further sperm from penetrating the ovum.

Plant fertilisation:

1. The pollen grain (male gamete) lands on the stigma

2. Pollen grain grows a pollen tube down into the stigma. The
pollen nucleus is at the tip of the tube

3. The pollen tube enters the ovule

4. The pollen tube reaches an ovum and the nucleus enters it
by endocytosis forming a zygote.

5. Many pollen grains may fertilize many ova
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Stem Cell: an undifferentiated cell (i.e. a cell that can grow into
more than one type of cell).

Totipotent Cell: an undifferentiated cell capable of growing into a
new embryo

Pluripotent Cell: an undifferentiated cell capable of growing into
any cell, but not a new embryo

Multipotent Cell: an undifferentiated cell capable of growing into a
few types of cell

Stem Cells are very useful because they can be used to grow
replacement organs. However, it is not yet possible to get a
differentiated cell to revert to being a stem cell. Therefore, stem
cells tend to be harvested from embryos, which causes serious
ethical problems.

You might like to consider;

 Where do the embyos come from?
 Is an embryo a human?
 Do embryos have the same rights as adult humans?
 Can we use animal embryos (or human-animal hybrids) instead?
 The utilitarian argument
 The right to life (for both adult and ambryo)


Dig up your Plant Culture Core Practical notes in the
Practical Handbook


Cells become specialized (or differentiated) by progressively
switching genes off. This is sometimes done by adding methyl
groups to the gene, which stop it being opened in transcription. The
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

gene is then permanently inactivated in the adult cell, but also in
any daughter cell produced through mitosis.

In addition, some genes may require a transcription factor to
activate them i.e. the gene is normally off, but will be transcribed in
the presence of a TF. Usually the TF is a hormone (e.g. Steroids -
think about their effects), but sometimes it can be an
environmental factor (e.g, the presence of lactose in E.coli – see
text book)


The phenotype is a product of the genotype and the environment.
For some genes the environment has minimal effect (e.g. blood
group), but for the majority the environment plays a significant
role. You need to know 4 examples

Animal Hair Colour:

Some animals have fur colour that is a product of the environment
e.g. Siamese cats should have black fur all over as their genotype
codes for the enzyme tyrosinase that converts tyrosine into
melanin (which is a dark protein – remind yourself of Albimism in
1.2.16). However, the enzyme is denatured by body heat, so only the
cold parts of the animal are black (tail, ears etc) and teh rest is

Human Height:

Is controlled by many genes, each with a range of alleles, making it
an example of polygenetic inheritance (i.e. controlled by lots of
genes). In addition, diet has a huge effect on height.

Mono Amine Oxidase A (MAOA):

MAOA enzymes break down neurotransmitters released by nerves
in the brain. High levels of MAOA have been linked to risk-taking
and aggression, whereas low levels of MAOA can cause depression
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

and Parkinsons disease. Mutations of MAOA are the genetic
component to these conditions, but environmental factors such as
stress levels also have a profound effect.


A tumour is a ball of cells dividing quicker than they should.
Tumours that split apart and spread around the body (metastasis)
are the most dangerous (malignant)

The rate of cell division is controlled by;

Oncogenes – speed cell cycle up
Tumour Supressor Genes – slow cell cycle down

Mutations in either of these genes can cause tumours. Although
mutations occur naturally, the environment can have an effect e.g.
radiation, free radicals, carcinogen chemicals all increase the
mutation rate.


Discontinuous variation: phenotypes appear in discrete categories
(i.e. blood group). Usually controlled by one gene where the
environment has little effect.

Continuous variation: phenotypes appear in a range of categories
(i.e. height). Usually controlled by many gene (polygenes) where the
environment has a large effect.

End of Topic 3
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Edexcel AS Revision
Unit 2: Notes
2: Development, Plants & the
Topic 4: Biodiversity & Natural Resources


Animal and plant cells are both eukaryotic cells, they have common
eukaruyotic features. However, plant cells also have some features
unique to them.

Cell wall: A structure made from cellulose fibrils and pectin cross-
links. It strengthens the cell and allows it to be turgid without

Amyloplast: A membrane-bound organelle full of starch (starch

Chloroplast: Site of photosynthesis.

Vacuole: A water-filled membrane-bound organelle that helps a cell
maintain turgor pressure
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Tonoplast: The vacuolar membrane

Plasmodesmata: A junction between adjacent cells where the
cytoplasm of one cell joins the cytoplasm of the other. Used for
intercellular communication

Pit: A thin patch in the cell wall where plasmodesmata can form or
have formed previously

Middle lamella: A pectin “glue” attaching one cell wall to another


Plant cells are strong because they are wrapped in a protective
layer of cellulose. This forms the cell wall.

Cellulose is a polysaccharide made from β glucose monomers.
Alternate glucose molecules “flip over” in the chain, forming
hydrogen bonds between adjacent cellulose chains. Because
cellulose has no side branches the chains can be packed closely
which increases the strength of the hydrogen bonds further.

Alternate glucose molecules “flipping over”

Individual cellulose chains are packaged together into microfibrils.
The microfibrils wind around each other forming cellulose fibres.
The cell wall is build from layers of these fibres.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Primary cell wall: First to form, cellulose fibres laid down in the
same direction

Secondary cell wall: Forms later, cellulose fibres laid down at right
angles to those in the primary wall. Provides much greater strength.

Collenchyma: found around the outside of the stem have their cell
walls further strengthened with more cellulose (secondary
thickening) to form thick supporting cells.

Sclerenchyma: in larger plants strings of collenchyma begin to lay
down the protein lignin in their cell walls to form very strong fibres
within the stem. These tend to form as a cap to the vascular
bundles in the stem. Sometimes the sclerenchyma can be extracted
by humans for making into rope (e.g. hessian) or clothes (e.g. flax or


Vessel Location in stem Purpose
Xylem Inside of vascular Carries water and minerals up
bundle the stem
Phloem Middle of vascular Carries sucrose up & down the
bundle stem
Sclerenchyma Cap on vascular Support for the stem
Collenchyma Inside epidermis Lesser support for the stem
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Plant materials are used for three main reasons;

1. Sustainable - they are not a limited resource as, although
they are used, they can be replanted.

2. Carbon neutral - do not contribute to rising CO2 levels
(although they may give off CO2, replanting uses the CO2
up again).

3. Biodegrade.

Plant materials are used as fibres (wood, cotton etc) as they have a
high tensile strength and can be used in clothing, building industry
etc. Oils from plants can be used as biofuels and starch can be used
in packaging, glues, absorbants as well as for food.


Xylem Sclerenchyma

 Regular rings of lignin  Irregular layers of lignin
 Wide lumen  Tiny lumen
 No end walls (continuous  End walls with pits
tube)  Location as cap to VB
 Location at inside of VB  Presence of sclerids
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Dig up your Celery Fibres Core Practical notes in the
Practical Handbook


Mineral Function in plant
Nitrate Used to make amino acids, which the plant uses to form
Calcium Used to make pectin for cell walls
Magnesium Central ion in the chlorophyll molecule.

Plants also need water for;

1. Photosynthesis (~5%)
2. Cooling via transpiration (~90%)
3. Transport of substances (e.g. sucrose, mineral ions)
4. Maintain turgor
5. Solvent for chemical reactions
6. Gamete distribution


Dig up your Plant Mineral Deficiencies Core Practical notes
in the Practical Handbook


Dig up your Mint / Garlic Core Practical notes in the
Practical Handbook


William Withering experimented with foxglove extract as a cure
for dropsy (oedema caused by congestive heart failure). He gave
the drug in increasing amounts until the patient became ill, then he
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

worked out a dose based on that. He also killed someone. His
studies, though important are NOT ethical and do not follow the
basis of modern clinical trials

Clinical Trial Process:

Stage Purpose of stage
Pre-clinical 1. Proposed drug is tested in a lab with cultured cells to
testing see the general effects of the drug
2. Proposed drug is given to animals to see the effects on
a whole animal. Any side effects away from target cells
are noted.
Clinical Trials – 1. A small group of healthy volunteers are given different
Phase 1 doses of the drug. They are told what the drug does
2. The distribution, absorbance rate, metabolism &
excretion profile of the drug are assessed.
3. The effects of the different doses are assessed to try
and determine the optimum dose
4. An independent organisation (UK Medicines Control
Agency) assesses whether it is appropriate to move to
Phase 2
Clinical Trials – 1. A small group of people with the disease are given the
Phase 2 drug.
2. Studies are very similar to Phase 1
3. The optimum dose is worked out
Clinical Trials – 1. A large group of people with the disease are given
Phase 3 optimum doses of the drug
2. The patients are either given the drug or a placebo in a
double-blind test
3. The results are analysed
4. If the drug has had a significant positive effect in the
treatment of the disease it is put forward to licensing
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Biodiversity: The number of species, the number of individuals
within those species and the number and variety of alleles those

Endemic: Where a species is found only within a particular niche in a
particular ecosystem.

Species richness: is a measure of biodiversity where the number
and variety of species in an area is recorded. Can be measured in
different ways;

• Indicator species i.e. the presence of specific species (usually
those least tolerant to pollution / climate change etc) are
used to indicate the “health” of the ecosystem.

• Population of keystone species i.e. the population of crucial
species (usually those providing prey for the rest) are used to
measure the “health” of the ecosystem

• Quantitative sampling – a direct way of sampling the
biodiversity using quadrats

• Capture / recapture – a direct way of working out populations
of species.

Genetic diversity: the number of different alleles within the gene
pool. The greater the diversity, the more likely the species is to
survive environmental change or disease.


A niche is the specific part of the ecosystem in which a species
lives and any adaptations the species has that make it successful
there. Adaptations can be;

Behavioural e.g. Iguana on the Galapagos islands dive for seaweed -
they are the only lizards to venture into the sea.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Physiological e.g. some Ethiopians have evolved a different shaped
haemoglobin molecule that resembles foetal Hb. It loads O2 much
more efficiently at altitude (see end of Topic 1)

Anatomical e.g. the Fiddler crab
has two very different claws. One
is huge and is used for “fiddling”
i.e. signalling for a mate. The
smaller claw is, rather
disappointingly, used for feeding.


Darwin made two observations and a conclusion;

O1: More offspring are born than can survive
O2: There is variation within a species

Conclusion: There is a “struggle for survival” only the “fittest can
survive and reproduce.” This is Natural Selection

In order for NS to lead to evolution a few extra conditions are

1. Isolation (see table below) so no flow of alleles

2. Small population & inbreeding

3. Mutation (generates new “fitter” alleles)

4. Mutations accumulate within population

5. Eventually the isolated population cannot reproduce with
the originals. At this point a new species has formed
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Method of isolation Description
Ecological isolation The species occupy different parts of the
Temporal isolation The species exist in the same area, but
reproduce at different times
Behavioural isolation The species exist in the same area, but do not
respond to each other’s courtship behaviour
Physical incompatibility Species coexist, but there are physical
reasons which stop them from copulating
Hybrid inviability In some species, hybrids are produces but
they do not survive long enough to breed
Hybrid sterility Hybrids survive to reproductive age, but
cannot reproduce

Allopatric speciation occurs when species are far from each other

Sympatric speciation occurs when species are close to each other


The taxonomic classification system follows a hierarchy of groups
(the 5 Kingdoms at the top, individual species at the bottom) in
which all species are categorised according to their anatomy.

However, this is not necessarily the best approach as species with
similar anatomies (e.g. dolphin and shark) are not necessarily closely
related. A better system is based on molecular phylogeny i.e.
comparing the molecules species are comprised of. The best
molecule to examine is DNA.

A recent proposal along this line (the three domain theory) argues
that all organisms evolved into three broad groups;

Bacteria – prokaryotes, fundamentally different structures

Archaea – those species that exhibit characteristics of both (i.e.
“early eukaryotes” and their descendents)

Eukaryotes – eukaryotes, fundamentally different structures
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness


Seed banks and Zoos help because they allow us to preserve
biodiversity, reintroduce species, set up captive breeding
programmes, educate people about ecology and generate money
from tourism.

However, be aware that some species (those that have a lot of
leaned behaviours e.g. tigers) do not tend to fare well on
reintroduction programmes.

Cohesion-Tension Theory of Transpiration

This is not mentioned on the syllabus, but it is in the text book. The
prudent man learns it anyway…

Epidermis: A single layer of cells often with long extensions called
root hairs, which increase the surface area enormously. A single
plant may have 1010 root hairs.

Cortex: A thick layer of packing cells often containing stored

Stele: contains the Xylem, Phloem & Cambium and is protected by a
layer of endodermis cells



Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Endodermis: A single layer of tightly-packed cells containing a
waterproof layer called the casparian strip. This prevents the
movement of water between the cells and helps “waterproof” the
stele – keeping water in.

cell cell casparian
cytoplasm strip vacuole
wall membrane

Water moves through the root by two paths:

(i) Symplast pathway (10%)
(ii) Apoplast pathway (90%)
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness

Symplast pathway: water moves from cytoplasm to cytoplasm
through plasmodesmata (holes in the cell walls, where cell
membranes of adjacent cells are joined - so there are no
membranes for the polar water molecules to cross).

Apoplast pathway: water moves from cell wall to cell wall. The cell
walls are quite thick and very open, so water can easily diffuse
through cell walls without having to cross any cell membranes.

However the Apoplast pathway stops at the endodermis because of
the waterproof casparian strip. At this point water has to cross
the cell membrane and enter the symplast pathway. This effectively
water-proofs the Stele, which stops water loss higher up the root.

Root Pressure:

Water moves from high water potential to low water potential by
osmosis. However, most soils are dry (especially in the desert) and
the water potential of the soil is low. Plant cells are full of water, so
why doesn’t water leave the plant cells and enter the soil?

The answer is that plant roots take up lots of ions from the soil,
which lowers the water concentration of their cytoplasm enough for
water to enter the root by osmosis, even if the soil if very dry. The
ions are taken up by active transport, by proteins in the cell
membrane of the root hairs. This uses up lots of energy (uses lots
of ATP).

Because of the low water potential root cells become very turgid.
This creates a small pressure, which forces water up the xylem in
the stem. This is called Root Pressure. In small plants root pressure
is very important for transpiration. In woody plants it does not
have a significant effect.
Edexcel AS Biology Revision Notes Written by Tim Filtness
Xylem Tissue small xylem vessels

large xylem vessel
Xylem tissue is composed of dead cells
joined together to form long empty thick cell wall

tubes. empty interior

Different kinds of cells form wide and Transverse Section (T.S.)

narrow tubes, and the end cells walls are
Longitudinal Section (L.S.)
either full of holes, or are absent
Before death the cells form thick cell
walls containing lignin, which is laid down of end wall

in rings, giving these cells a very
characteristic appearance under the end walls


Lignin makes the xylem vessels very strong, so that they don’t collapse under
pressure, and they also make woody stems strong. The xylem vessels form
continuous pipes from the roots to the leaves. Water can move up through these
pipes at a rate of 8m h-1, and can reach a height of over 100m.

Water molecules are polar and bind to each other by hydrogen
bonds forming a strong column of water (for it’s diameter the H
column is stronger than steel!) O
1. Water evaporates out of the leaves and causes low H H
pressure in the leaves. O
2. This creates a suction (or tension) force which sucks water
up the stem
3. Because water molecules are polar they stick to each other
and the entire column of water in the Xylem moves H H
upwards. O

4. This mechanism is called the cohesion-tension theory. H

End of Topic 4