Advanced Cell Biology: Regulation of Cell Function

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The diverse kinds of cells in an organism and the different ways that any cell can respond to changes in the environment result from distinctions in the timing and level of expression of various genes that are responsible for their specific cellular activity. Therefore, a fundamental question in biology is to understand the mechanisms used by cells to regulate gene expression and subsequent cell function. Most regulation of gene function occurs at the level of DNA activity (transcription), and it has been estimated that 10% of all human genes encode the transcription factors responsible for this level of regulation; however, because of the complexity of the cell and the critical need to maintain normal cell function in a variety of environments, multiple mechanisms have evolved to modify and control cell activity. In this course we will focus on these various mechanisms, examining regulatory events at the level of transcription, translation, receptor activity and signal transduction, determination of cell fate, and the modification and localization of intracellular proteins. Once we understand how cells regulate their function, we can begin to imagine ways in which we may intervene to modify specific cell activities, as well as how specific chemicals and compounds alter these regulatory mechanisms to the detriment of the cell. Readings are drawn entirely from the primary research literature covering the latest developments in cell biology.