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Principles of Cell Signalling

Dr Taufiq Rahman

The ability to sense one’s environment and respond to it is one of the most fundamental properties common to all living organisms. Single-celled organisms such as bacteria and yeasts, are able to seek out nutrients, avoid toxins or harmful materials, and change their shape, movement, metabolic activity and gene expression depending on the environmental conditions. In multi-cellular organisms (like us – the humans, our pets or rodents etc.) and plants, even more subtle and sophisticated interactions between cells and the external environment are needed. In spite of being physically insulated by an oily membrane (or a more rigid cell wall, as in plants), individual cells are able to sense and integrate vast amounts of information and use it to make decisions about whether to grow, divide, migrate, adopt a particular shape, grow older or even die. Without these decisions, an organism can neither develop nor maintain its integrity as a coherent living entity. Thus the ability to communicate with one another and with the external environment and to generate appropriate responses is at the core of sustaining life.

The whole process is known as signal transduction, often simply referred to as cell signalling – it is everywhere in the living world and it has been there since the inception of life. Cell signalling is essentially very complex, yet it can be very fascinating and rewarding to know how normally cells strictly operate with precision, punctuality and discipline – analogous to a busy airport or an underground tube station. This is what keeps us, and other living beings, alive and kicking. Any abnormality in cell signalling (complete lack, inadequate or excess of signalling) leads to chaos within i.e. we all suffer from various kinds of diseases.

Intended Audience

This course is aimed at a broad audience of students, particularly from Biological/Biomedical Sciences (including those considering medical, veterinary, pharmacy or nursing school) interested in furthering their understanding of how cells regulate and coordinate their core activities.

Previous Knowledge

Knowledge of Biology/Biochemistry is required for this course. Prior knowledge of Chemistry, Physiology and Cell Biology will be an added advantage, but is not essential.

Transferable Knowledge and Skills

Upon completion of this course, students will have basic understanding of the major cell signalling pathways, their modus operandi, their mechanisms of achieving specificity and diversity, cross talks between signalling pathways and aberrant signalling that occurs under some pathophysiological scenarios.


Dr Taufiq Rahman

Dr Rahman is a University Lecturer at the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Cambridge, and an official fellow of the Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. His research interests primarily lie within the cellular calcium signalling with particular focus on behaviour and functional regulation of intracellular calcium channels regulated by second messengers.

He is also interested in rational design and development of chemical probes that can be used to modulate signalling proteins including ion channels and microbial proteins. He is a former Drapers’ Research Fellow of Pembroke College, a University Research Fellow from the Royal Society, UK and was awarded the Early Career Research Award in Signal Transduction 2011 by the Biochemical Society, UK.