Cellular Biophysics

Academic year
Subject Area
Área Científica do Menor
Language of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
1st Cycle Studies

Recommended Prerequisites

The students should have the scientific background required for in-depth learning of cellular biophysics and physiology. Prior attendance of the following courses is strongly recommended: General Biology, Fundaments of Physiology, General Physics, Biochemical Physics and Biochemistry of Metabloism. The students should be proficient in written English, in order to handle the recommended bibliography (mostly books and articles in English) and to carry out the bibliographic searches for essay preparation and presentation.

Teaching Methods

Two main strategies are followed so that teaching becomes interactive and expository lectures are avoided: (ii) students are encouraged to ask frequent questions; (ii) teachers pose advance queries on the various matters, to be answered through appropriate discussions at later stages.

Active learning is also supported by the following features: (i) problem solving; (ii) presentation of short synthesis essays on focused topics that are covered in lectures; (iii) performing computer simulations to clarify teaching topics in electrophysiology.

Learning Outcomes

Students are expected to acquire fundamental and advanced knowledge on cellular biophysics and physiology, so that they grasp the major mechanisms underlying the functioning of a living cell. Emphasis is given to (i) study of the transport of molecules and ions through cell membranes; (ii) study of signal transduction and intracellular signaling pathways; and, (iii) study of structure-function relationships involving ion channels.

Insights from cellular biophysics are expected to play a leading role in teaching, allowing the progression from fundamental to more complex issues as well as the treatment of state-of-the-art issues, scientifically updated and close to research. 

Learning is expected to progress essentially in a critical and non-descriptive fashion, aiming at an integrated view of the covered matters.

Students are expected to strengthen their skills in scientific reading, bibliographic searching and communication, thus stimulating their interest for research.

Work Placement(s)



Simple and facilitated diffusion across membranes. Glucose transporters and regulation of GLUT-4 mediated transport by insulin.

Active transport: pumps and exchangers. The Donnan equilibrium and Na+ as an osmotic compensator. E1-E2 transitions in P-type ATPases. Reversal potential of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger. Cytosolic pH regulation by ion exchangers.

Signal transduction. Membrane receptors and G proteins. Second messengers and signal amplification steps. Signaling modules and domains. Cyclic AMP, second messengers derived from membrane phospholipids and Ca2+ as second messengers. Signaling by nitric oxide and pharmacological modulation of vasodilation. Insulin receptor signaling.

Ion channels, voltage-clamp and patch-clamp. Conductance, selectivity, gating and molecular structure. Modulation of activity, localization and expression. Na+ channels and regenerative excitability. K+ channels and electrical activity patterns. Ca2+ channels and secretion. Pathology development.

Head Lecturer(s)

Luís Manuel de Oliveira Martinho do Rosário

Assessment Methods

Mini Tests: 30.0%
Exam: 70.0%


N. Sperelakis (2012) Cell physiology source book: essentials of membrane biophysics, 4th ed., N. Sperelakis (ed.), Academic Press

D.J. Aidley (1998) The physiology of excitable cells. 4th ed., Cambridge University Press.

B. Hille (2001) Ionic channels of excitable membranes, 3rd ed., Sinauer Associates.

V.K. Gribkoff and L. K. Kaczmarek (2009) Structure, function and modulation of neuronal voltage-gated ion channels,Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey

 B. Gomperts (2009) Signal transduction. 2nd ed., Academic Press.

 D.L. Nelson and M.M. Cox (2013) Lehninger principles of biochemistry, 6th ed., W.H. Freeman

São ainda recomendados vários artigos científicos como bibliografia suplementar.

Several scientific articles are also recommended as supplementary bibliography.