Course Coordinator: 
Akihiro Kusumi
Biophysics of Cellular Membranes

Explore concepts of biophysics including thermal conformational fluctuation and thermal diffusion, and consider how cells might take advantage of these physical processes to enable their functions. Discover how the cell membrane system functions in light of these physical processes to fulfil its critical contribution to cell signal transduction and metabolism.  With extensive use of student presentations about topics of cellular signaling in the context of cellular cancer biology, immunology, and neurobiology, discuss the dynamic structures of the plasma membrane, including domain structures, tubulovesicular network, endocytosis and exocytosis, and cytoskeletal interactions. Learn methods of single-molecule imaging-tracking and manipulation for directly “seeing” the thermal, stochastic processes exhibited by receptors and downstream signaling molecules during signaling in live cells.

Aims: This lecture series introduces the basic concepts and current research in cellular biophysics of biological membrane systems.
Course Content: 
  1. Introduction to Biophysics
  2. Biological Membrane Structure and Molecular Dynamics
  3. Signaling in the Plasma Membrane I
  4. Single-molecule Imaging and Manipulation of Plasma Membrane Molecules
  5. Interaction between the Plasma Membrane and the Cytoskeleton
  6. Force Involved in Organizing Membrane Molecules
  7. Domain Structures of the Plasma Membrane
  8. Signaling in the Plasma Membrane Enabled by Its Meso-Scale Domain Organization
  9. 3D-Organization of the Plasma Membrane: Endocytosis and Exocytosis
  10. Membrane Deformation
  11. Interaction between the Cytoplasmic Membranes and the Cytoskeleton
  12. Tubulovesicular Network in Cells
  13. Signaling in the Plasma Membrane II
  14. Biological Meso-scale Mechanisms
Course Type: 
Report 50%; Final exam 50%
Text Book: 
  • Mary Luckey, Membrane Structural Biology 2nd Ed. Cambridge University Press
Reference Book: 
    Prior Knowledge: 
    Biology, chemistry, and/or physics at undergraduate levels