Principles of Cell Signalling

Dr Taufiq Rahman

PrinciplesEvery cell, be it part of a simple or complex organism, is essentially a watery bag of electrolytes encapsulated by an oily membrane which insulates it from their immediate external environment. The latter, however, varies constantly in nature and composition. This throws an obligate need for the cells to communicate with their ever-changing external environment to adapt or survive and to secure nutrients. Cells may need to respond to several ‘changes’ (i.e. stimuli or ‘signals’, for example arrival of glucose or a hormone in blood) occurring in the extracellular milieu at once and different cells may need to respond to the same stimulus in different ways. For all these, cells are endowed with machineries (proteins and messenger molecules) dedicated to receive, transduce and decode these signals and eventually to trigger appropriate response. The whole process is known as signal transduction, often simply referred to as cell signalling. The beauty of cell signalling lies in the way different pathways converge, diverge and adapt to control a diverse array of cellular processes. It is essential for simple to complex life forms, be it either plants or animals. Cellular signalling in higher organisms is a major topic in modern medical and pharmaceutical research and is of central importance in the biomolecular sciences.

This course aims at introducing the students to the basic components and properties of the major cell signalling pathways, with special emphasis on how they are switched on and off. Attention is also focused on their variation in time and space that determine how information is encoded and directed to precise sub-cellular locations. Lastly, how these signalling pathways are utilized to regulate diverse cellular processes at every stage of life (from fertilization to cell death) will be discussed. Since aberrant cell signalling underlies almost every disease, possible molecular targets for therapeutic interventions will also be highlighted during the course.

This course is aimed at: A broad audience of students from Biological/Biomedical Sciences (including those considering medical school) interested in furthering their understanding of how cells regulate and coordinate their core activities.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: Biology. Chemistry will be an added advantage.

Core Reading

  • Albert et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell, Garland Publishing (can be accessed freely through PubMed Bookshelf) 2008
  • Nelson, J. Structure and function in cell signalling. John Wiley and Sons, 2008
  • Hancock, J. Cell Signalling. Oxford University Press. 3rd edition. 2010
  • Gomperts, B.D.; Kramer, L.M. and Tatham, P.E.R. Signal Transduction. Academic Press 2009

A few selected reviews/primary journal articles will be provided during the course.


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)