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The point of the first class is to give you an overview of how the course is structured.

For all technical information (books, quizzes, exams, ...) please refer to the information sheet that is handed out in the first class, and that is also available from the course homepage, http://www.faculty.jacobs-university.de/springer/GenBCCB/ .

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From the British playwright Eden Phillpotts. The full quotation is: In the marshes the buckbean has lifted its feathery mist of flower spikes above the bed of trefoil leaves. The fimbriated flowers are a miracle of workmanship and every blossom exhibits an exquisite disorder of ragged petals finer than lace. But one needs a lens to judge of their beauty: it lies hidden from the power of our eyes, and menyanthes must have bloomed and passed a million times before there came any to perceive and salute her loveliness. The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

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It is important that you make use of these opportunities to get your lab course materials.

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In the first section of the course, "What are cells made of?", we'll deal with the components that each cell is made of. We'll always break up complex problems into their parts, try to understand the individual parts, and then put them together again. The slide shows that to understand the structure (and function) of protein molecules, we first have to study amino acids (their building blocks) and how they are put together to give a protein. The third image shows the three-dimensional structure of a protein, which it needs to attain to fulfil its function in the cell. In their role as enzymes, proteins enable most of the directed chemical reactions to occur. They also provide structural support (cytoskeleton). The attempt to understand life by looking at the chemical substances and reactions that underlie it is called biochemistry. Methods of a biochemist often involve the isolation of components from cells, and the use of test tubes. This, of course, requires some understanding of chemistry which we will also try to achieve.

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Lipid membranes are made of individual lipid molecules. These individual molecules stick together not by chemical bonds but because they cannot mix with water. Lipid membranes are thin and very flexible, and they are impermeable to many water-soluble molecules. They define the inside and outside of a cell. Inside a lipid membrane, protein molecules can be embedded to serve functions such as recognition of things outside the cell, or transport of things into the cell. The microscopy image shows the stained surface membrane of a yeast cell.

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The cell walls of plants are made of individual sugar molecules linked by chemical bonds to form large polymers called cellulose. Small and large sugar molecules are together called carbohydrates. Other polysaccharides (large carbohydrates) of biological importance include starch (called glycogen) as the energy storage material in the liver, and chitin, thematerial of the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans.

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The genetic material, DNA, is made of building blocks called nucleotides. The understanding of their chemistry, and of the structure of DNA. is essential if you want to find out how genes work.

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During the course, we will also try and find out how the knowledge in the life sciences is generated, and what the work of a life scientist looks like (and why many people think this is the most exciting thing you can possibly do with your life). The picture shows a nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer with its large tank for liquid helium. It is used to investigate the structure of proteins.

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This is a three-dimensional structure of a protein found out in an NMR experiment. It is "fuzzy" because from NMR, one can also derive information on how a protein can move.

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In the section, "How are things interconverted?", we'll find out how the cell produces all of its components, and how these production processes are regulated. In a mixture of chemicals such as the cytosol (= interior of the cell), lots of random chemical reactions could occur. They are governed by the cell with the help of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze (= speed up) some reactions but not others. The picture shows the moment where a molecule of glyceraldehyde phosphate (a sugar derived from glucose) is deprived of two of its electrons (which the cell will go on to use elsewhere) in the active site of the enzyme, glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase. Biochemistry is beautiful!

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The synthesis of complicated chemicals, like amino acids and lipids, follows pathways, too. All pathways together give a complicated network. Part of a chart showing all the biochemical pathways in the cell. In this class, we'll focus on how such pathways work in principle, rather than on their details. No panic!

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Third section. Like every complex machinery, a cell needs energy to survive and grow. Therefore, biological systems need nutrients (= food). The movie shows a demonstration of the enormous amount of energy present in one gummy bear. There is a near explosion when it is brought together with molten potassium chlorate, a source of oxygen.

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To make sure that the energy that is available from nutrients is optimally used, the combustion reaction is broken up into individual steps. The picture shows the energy utilization pathway of glycolysis, with the glyceraldehyde phosphate dehydrogenase reaction being step 6.

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In the section, "How are proteins made and targeted?", we'll first look at how the information to make proteins, the genetic information, is stored in DNA, and how this information is read out. This is mostly the domain of molecular biology (also called molecular genetics).

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The final section is dedicated to complex structures and processes at the level of the cell. Again, we'll try and understand them in the light of their molecular mechanisms. This is mainly the domain of the science, cell biology. It is concerned with the functioning of the individual cell and its components, and the interplay of individual cells in tissues. Methods often involve observation, for example in the microscope. The picture shows two cells, one bacterial (prokaryotic) and one eukaryotic, comparing their sizes. The following slides give an overview of the science of cell biology.

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Cells can be eukaryotes or prokaryotes. These differ in having, or not having, a nucleus and internal organelles (see below). Some organisms have only one cell. Some have many. The picture shows a bacterium.

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All cells are surrounded by a plasma membrane which defines inside and outside. The membrane cannot be crossed by most substances.

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Eukaryotic cells have organelles. They are specialized compartments, usually surrounded by a membrane, too.

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The nucleus is the largest organelle of the cell. Here, DNA, the genetic material, is stored, duplicated, and transcribed into RNA. The slide shows an electron micrograph of a cell nucleus, with the pores (np) through which the nuclear interior communicates with the rest of the cell.

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Synthesis of proteins then takes place in the cytosol by ribosomes. (The cytosol is everything in the cell that is not the nucleus or the plasma membrane.
The electron micrograph shows ribosomes (the little black dots) in the cytosol of a cell. Some are attached to a membrane. The interior of the nucleus is labeled witn an N. ! !

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Eukaryotic cells have organelles. They are specialized compartments, usually surrounded by a membrane, too.

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Mitochondria are other organelles, about the size of a bacterium. Inside them, some of the chemical reactions that utilize the cellular nutrients occur. At the end of all these reactions, the energy from the nutrients is transformed into an energy currency called ATP, which the cell can use for all its energy needs.

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In plants, chloroplasts do the same thing, but they use sunlight to generate energy. Of course, plants have mitochondria, too!

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Two other important membrane-enclosed organelles are the Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) and the Golgi apparatus. In cointrast to the nucleus and the mitochondria, the ER and the Golgi have a very small interior and are highly branched. They work together in the secretion of proteins from cells. The images show ER (green) and Golgi (red) of a single cell, stained with different dyes. The pictures were taken as part of our research!

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This slide shows how some of the organelles are connected by transport pathways. We will discuss this in detail.

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The cell is structured by the cytoskeleton. This is composed of many polymeric structures made of proteins. Shown here in green are actin filaments, which are mainly around the edges of the cell and give it its stiffness.

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Cells can move around, they can transport things in and out, and they can communicate with other cells.

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Assemblies of many cells that together serve a specialized task are called tissues. The picture shows the external tissue of the skin, called epidermis.

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The video shows a process in the human immune response called the extravasation of a leukocyte down to its atomic details. It makes clear to to understand cellular processes, one must look at all the levels from the organism to the atom. This is the hallmark of this course, which is unique in Germany (and perhaps in the world) in that it integrates all these levels into a single year. At the end of the course, you will understand pretty much all that is shown here when we look at this video again!

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"Key concepts" are words which have come up in the lecture that you should be able to explain to your colleagues. The best way of finding out whether you can is to actually try and explain them to someone! Talking about science makes sense because it helps in thinking about the material.

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"Basic questions" are questions that everyone should be able to answer quickly, either by talking or in writing. Similar questions will come up in the quiz that we write every Tuesday between 8:15 and 8:25 am. You can try and answer them for yourself with pen and paper, and (better) you can talk to people about them. The questions in the quizzes will not necessarily be identical to these so it is best if you have understood the material - then you can find your own answers to new questions.

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