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Cell Biology

Code: 100939 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2500253 Biotechnology FB 1 1


Elena Ibaņez de Sans

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
catalan (cat)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:


There are no prerequisites for taking this subject, as it is taught in the first semester of the first year of the Biotechnology degree. However, students should have a basic knowledge of Biology, specifically of the general structure of cells and their organic components (proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids) as well as of the main pathways of cell metabolism.

Additionally, as most sources of information in a scientific discipline such as Cell Biology are in English, it is recommended that students have a basic working knowledge of this language.

Objectives and Contextualisation

In this core subject, students are expected to acquire a solid knowledge of the structural organization, operation and regulation of eukaryotic cells. This knowledge is complemented with that of other core and mandatory subjects in the Biotechnology degree, such as Animal and Plant Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, Animal and Plant Physiology, Microbiology or Immunology. As a whole, this will provide Biotechnology students with a good understanding of the structural and functional organization of living organisms. Other subjects in the Biotechnology syllabus, such as Instrumental Techniques or Cellular Culture, will provide a more in-depth knowledge of the techniques used for the study of cells. This aspect is only briefly introduced in Cell Biology. The theoretical content of Cell Biology will be complemented with practical laboratory sessions in Integrated Laboratory 1.

After completing Cell Biology, students will be able to correctly follow many of the subjects listed above, as well as other optional subjects in the Biotechnology syllabus. For this reason, the Cell Biology course is taught in the first semester of the first year of the Biotechnology degree.

On completing the course, students will be able to:

1. Recognize the main differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

2. Describe the structure, composition, and main characteristics of cell membranes.

3. Explain the organization and composition of other elements of the cell surface.

4. Describe the processes of transport across cell membranes.

5. Describe the structure, composition, and function of the distinct compartments of eukaryotic cells, as well as the relationships between them.

6. Explain the role of mitochondria and chloroplasts in cellular bioenergetics.

7. Describe the protein classification systems and their intracellular distribution pathways.

8. Describe the composition of chromatin and its organization in interphase and during cell division.

9. List the components of the cytoskeleton and describe their composition and structure.

10. Explain the contribution of the cytoskeleton to cell shape and movement.

11. Identify and describe the molecules, structures and processes involved in the relationship and communication of cells with the external environment and with other cells.

12. Identify the molecules involved in the regulation of the cell cycle and explain their function.

13. List and describe the different phases of mitosis and meiosis and compare the two types of cell divisions.

14. Relate the functioning of eukaryotic cells to the causes of certain diseases.

15. Integrate and apply the theoretical knowledge acquired in the subject to interpret the results of simple scientific experiments and to solve experimental problems.

16. Use scientific language appropriate to the field of cell biology.


  • Act with ethical responsibility and respect for fundamental rights and duties, diversity and democratic values.
  • Apply the principal techniques for the use of biological systems: recombinant DNA and cloning, cell cultures, manipulation of viruses, bacteria and animal and plant cells, immunological techniques, microscopy techniques, recombinant proteins and methods of separation and characterisation of biomolecules.
  • Describe the molecular, cellular and physiological bases of the organisation, functioning and integration of living organisms in the framework of their application to biotechnological processes.
  • Introduce changes in the methods and processes of the field of knowledge to provide innovative responses to the needs and demands of society.
  • Learn new knowledge and techniques autonomously.
  • Read specialised texts both in English and one's own language.
  • Search for and manage information from various sources.
  • Work individually and in teams

Learning Outcomes

  1. Act with ethical responsibility and respect for fundamental rights and duties, diversity and democratic values.
  2. Describe the molecules, structures and processes involved in a cell's interaction and communication with the external environment and with other cells.
  3. Explain the functioning and regulation of the cell cycle and cell division.
  4. Integrate the functions of the different organelles and cell structures with the overall functioning of the cell.
  5. Introduce changes in the methods and processes of the field of knowledge to provide innovative responses to the needs and demands of society.
  6. Learn new knowledge and techniques autonomously.
  7. Read specialised texts both in English and one's own language.
  8. Relate the methodologies used in cell biology to the knowledge they generate.
  9. Relate the structure of the different parts of a cell to their functioning.
  10. Search for and manage information from various sources.
  11. Work individually and in teams


Unit 1. Introduction: organization of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Main characteristics and differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Unit 2. Structure and composition of the plasma membrane. Functions, structure and composition of the plasma membrane. Characteristics of the membrane: fluidity and asymmetry.

Unit 3. Transport of molecules across the membrane. Simple diffusion and osmosis. Transport of ions and small molecules: passive transport with permeases and with channel proteins; primary and secondary active transport.

Unit 4. The extracellular matrix and the cell wall. The extracellular matrix of animal cells: composition and functions; communication between the cell and the extracellular matrix; diseases related to the extracellular matrix. The cell wall of plant cells.

Unit 5. Junctions and cell adhesion. Cell junctions: occluding, anchoring and channel-forming junctions. Cell adhesion: cell adhesion molecules.

Unit 6. Introduction to intracellular compartments and protein sorting. Cell compartmentation. Intracellular protein sorting.

Unit 7. The nucleus. Nuclear membranes, nuclear lamina and nuclear pores. Bidirectional nucleus-cytoplasm transport: protein import; protein and RNA export. Nuclear matrix. Nucleolus: structure and synthesis of ribosomal RNA. Chromatin: composition and structure; organization of chromatin during interphase; organization and structure of chromosomes.

Unit 8. The cytosol. Composition and organization. Functions: protein folding, post-translational protein modification and processing; protein degradation.

Unit 9. The endoplasmic reticulum. Introduction to the endomembrane system. Structure and composition of the endoplasmic reticulum. Functions of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum: lipid synthesis and cell detoxification. Functions of the roughendoplasmic reticulum: synthesis and translocation of soluble and membrane proteins; protein modifications; quality control.

Unit 10. The Golgi apparatus. Structure and composition of the Golgi apparatus. Basic principles of vesicular transport: types of vesicles, formation and fusion of the vesicles with the target membrane. Vesicular transport between the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi and inside the Golgi. Retention of endoplasmic reticulum resident proteins. Modifications of protein oligosaccharides. Metabolism of lipids and polysaccharides. Protein sorting in the trans-Golgi network: transport of lysosomal proteins, constitutive secretion and regulated secretion; retention of Golgi resident proteins.

Unit 11. Endosomes, lysosomes, and vacuoles. Endosomes: structure and composition; classification; function: endocytosis. Lysosomes: structure and composition; obtention of digestion material (autophagy and heterophagy); lysosomal accumulation diseases. Vacuoles in plant cells.

Unit 12. Mitochondria. Structure and composition. Biogenesis: mitochondrial genome and protein synthesis; import of lipids and proteins. Mitochondrial function: cell respiration. Mitochondrial oxidations; electron transport; ATP synthesis; transport across the inner mitochondrial membrane; heat production.

Unit 13. Chloroplasts. Structure and composition. Biogenesis: chloroplast genome; protein import. Chloroplast functions: photosynthesis. Light reactions: light absorption, electron transport and ATP production. Dark reactions: Calvin's cycle, photorespiration.

Unit 14. Peroxisomes. Structure and composition. Biogenesis: import of lipids and proteins; de novo biogenesis. General functions of peroxisomes: oxidative reactions and oxidation of fatty acids. Specific functions of peroxisomes in animal and plant cells.

Unit 15. Microfilaments. Structure and composition. Actin polymerization. Actin binding proteins. Organization of microfilaments in muscle and non-muscle cells. Cell movement.

Unit 16. Microtubules. Structure and composition. Tubulin polymerization. Microtubule-associated proteins. Labile microtubules. Stable microtubules: centrioles, cilia and flagella; structure, biogenesis and functions.

Unit 17. Intermediate filaments. Structure and composition. Polymerization. Intermediate filament-associated proteins. Functions.

Unit 18. Cell signaling. Basic principles of cell signaling. Intracellular receptors. Cell surface receptors: G protein-associated receptors; enzyme-associated receptors. Signal integration.

Unit 19. The cell cycle. Phases of the cell cycle. Cell cycle control: components of the system and checkpoints.

Unit 20. Mitosis. Phases of mitosis and organization of the mitotic spindle. Cytokinesis.

Unit 21. Meiosis. Phases of meiosis. Synaptonemal complex and chromosome synapsis. Genetic recombination.


This subject consists of theoretical classes and problem-based sessions. The organization and teaching methodology for these two types of educational activities are described below.

Theoretical classes:

The content of the theory programme will be taught mainly in the form of lectures with audiovisual support. Presentations used in class will be previously made available through Campus virtual. Although it is not necessary to complement the contents of the classes, unless particularly requested by the lecturer, it is recommended that students regularly consult the works listed in the Bibliography section of this guide in order to consolidate and, if necessary, clarify the content explained in class. In this sense, it is also advisable that students use the web links provided in Campus virtual, which contain videos and animations related to the processes explained in class, as well as self-assessment tests that students can take to periodically control their learning process.

In addition to attending classes, students are also required to take an active role during the course, independently preparing some of the units of the programme based on the guidelines provided by the teacher. These guidelines are included in the document titled “Guia del Treball d'Autoaprenentatge” (Independent Learning Guide), available on Campus virtual. This independent-learning activity can be done either individually or in small working groups. The objectives are that students learn to search, interpret and summarize information gathered from textbooks and other bibliographic sources, and learn to work independently. Questions and doubts that the students may have about the contents of these units will be discussed in class, but only on the dates indicated in the document titled “Programació de l'assignatura” (Course Planning), available on Campus virtual.

Information collected by students during the independent-learning activities will serve as individual study material, and no work submissions will be required. It is important, however, that students plan their study time according to the course planning in order to have the material prepared in advance of the corresponding problem-based sessions and assessment tests.

Problem-based sessions:

In these sessions, students are divided in two groups. It is compulsory for students to attend the sessions corresponding to their group. Session dates and the set of problems that students will have to solve throughout the course will be available on Campus virtual.

During these sessions, students will present solutions to experimental problems related to the contents of the theory programme. This activity aims to serve as consolidation of the contents of the subject, as well as familiarizing students with some of the techniques commonly used in cell biology, the interpretation of scientific data, and the solving of problems based on real experimental situations. In addition, this activity aims to focus on teamwork skills, through the organization of students into working groups in which all group members are required to actively participate.

The methodology of the problem sessions is detailed in the document titled “Funcionament de les classes de problemes” (How Problem-Based Sessions Work), available on Campus virtual. Briefly, students will organize themselves into groups of four at the beginning of the course and will work on the problems outside class hours. In each problem-based session, the teacher will randomly select a number of students to present their solutions to the problems. The presentations will be assessed by the teacher and the mark obtained by the presenting student will be applied to all members of the group to which that student belongs.

Student participation in this activity and attendance of the problem-based sessions is mandatory. Absences must be communicated to the teacher and be duly justified.

To monitor the proper functioning of the working groups, each student will have to submit two group-assessment questionnaires throughout the course, evaluating their own work and that of the other group members. These questionnaires will be available on Campus virtual. Deadlines for submission are indicated in the document titled “Programació de l'assignatura” (Course Planning) available on Campus virtual.

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Problem-based sessions 4 0.16 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11
Theoretical classes 40 1.6 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9
Type: Autonomous      
Individual study 52 2.08 6, 10, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11
Problem solving (group work) 25 1 1, 6, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11
Unit preparation (independent-learning work) 25 1 1, 6, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11


Evaluation consists of continuous assessment, including the following activities:

1. Multiple-choice tests (individual assessment): During the course students will have to take two multiple-choice tests. These tests consist of a series of questions on the corresponding contents of the theory programme, including those units prepared by the students (independent-learning work).

The aim of these tests is to assess that students’ acquisition of the subject’s conceptual knowledge, their understanding, and their knowledge of how to integrate this information. In addition, by including questions related to the units prepared by the students, the tests also assess students' competence in the management of information (searching for, analyzing and summarizing information from various sources in order to construct knowledge).

The first test covers units 1-11; the second test covers units 12-21. Each test represents 35% of the final grade. In order to pass the course, students must obtain a minimum mark of 4 points (out of 10) in each of the two tests.

2. Problem-solving oral presentations (group assessment): Students' presentations in each problem-based session are assessed by the teacher and the average mark represents 15% of the final course grade. Evaluation will take into account whether students have correctly solved the problem, but will also consider the approach used and how well this has been understood by the presenting student. The mark obtained by the presenting student will be applied to all members of the group to which that student belongs.

It is compulsory for each working group to present at least one problem in class and for each member of the group to submit the two group-assessment questionnaires by the established deadlines. Although the results of these questionnaires will not have a specific weighting for the final grade, students with negative ratings from other group members may not receive the mark obtained by their group, or may have this mark reduced by half.

Students not submitting the group-assessment questionnaire by the deadline will need to contact the teacher to ask for an extension. Submission of questionnaires after the deadline (but within the extension period) will be penalized by subtracting 1 point from the final group mark for each late-submitted questionnaire. For students not submitting one of the questionnaires, the group mark will be reduced by half. If neither of the two questionnaires are submitted, the mark awarded will be 0.

3. Problem-solving exams (individual assessment): Together with each of the two multiple-choice tests, students must individually solve a problem, similar to those formulated with the group throughout the course. The mark obtained in each problem represents 7.5% of the final grade.

In order to pass the subject, students must (i) take the two multiple-choice tests and the two problem-solving exams; (ii) be in a working group that has presented at least one problem in class; and (iii) submit the two group-assessment questionnaires. Students must obtain a minimum mark of 4 in each of the two multiple-choice tests, and a minimum overall grade of 5 for the total assessment activities of the subject.

Students with marks lower than 4 in any of the two multiple-choice tests will have to retake the failed test/s. To be eligible for reassessment, students must have previously been evaluated in a set of activities equalling at least two thirds of the final grade for the subject. In the event that the mark obtained in any of the reassessment tests is lower than 4, students will not be able to pass the subject. They will be awarded a final grade of maximum 4 for the subject, regardless of the average grade obtained through the marks from the other assessment activities.

As no minimum pass marks are required for the other assessable activities (problem-solving oral presentations and problem-solving exams), these cannot be retaken.

Students will be graded as “No Avaluable” (Not Assessable) if the weighting of all assessable work carried out is less than 67% of the final grade.

Students who are repeating the subject may either keep the mark of the group work obtained in the previous year, provided it is ≥5, or retake this assessable activity. In either case, these students will need to retake the two problem-solving exams, in addition to the two multiple-choice tests, in order to pass the subject.

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
First multiple-choice test: Units 1 to 11 (individual assessment) 35% 1.5 0.06 6, 10, 2, 4, 7, 9, 11
Problem-solving exam 1 (individual assessment) 7.5% 0.5 0.02 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 8, 11
Problem-solving exam 2 (individual assessment) 7.5% 0.5 0.02 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 8, 11
Problem-solving oral presentations (group assessment) 15% 0 0 1, 6, 10, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 8, 11
Second multiple-choice test: Units 12 to 21 (individual assessment) 35% 1.5 0.06 6, 10, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11



Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, Morgan D, Raff M, Roberts K, Walter P. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 6th Edition. W. W. Norton & Company. 2014. ISBN: 978-0-815-34524-4.

Alberts B, Hopkin K, Johnson A, Morgan D, Raff M, Roberts K, Walter P. Essential Cell Biology. 5th Edition. W. W. Norton & Company. 2018. ISBN: 978-0-393-68038-6.

Cooper GM. The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 8th Edition. Oxford University Press. 2019. ISBN: 9781605358635.

Lodish H, Berk A, Kaiser CA, Krieger M, Bretscher A, Ploegh H, Martin KC, Yaffe M, Amon A. Molecular Cell Biology. 9th Edition. Macmillan Learning. 2021. ISBN: 9781319365493.


Web links:

Available in Campus Virtual.


Not used.