BMS301 - Membrane Receptors (10 credits)

Module Co-ordinator: Dr. EP Seward


To provide an understanding of membrane receptors for extracellular signalling molecules, including their molecular structure and transduction mechanisms, their roles in physiology, and how these may be exploited as targets for therapeutic drugs.


The module will examine the main families of integral membrane proteins that act as surface receptors to sense the extracellular environment and signal this information to produce changes in cell function. Specific emphasis is placed on receptors which are therapeutic targets for the treatment of common human diseases, including cancer, and chronic inflammatory, cardiovascular and neurological disorders.

The lectures will review current knowledge and thinking about the molecular structure and function of receptors in mammalian cells.  Lecturers will describe how research involving vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms together with state-of-the-art biochemical and molecular techniques have been used to increase our understanding of receptor signalling and how this knowledge may be exploited to develop novel therapeutics.


At the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Summarise the diverse classes of membrane receptors
  • Outline the molecular structure and modus operandi of membrane receptors and describe how drugs interact with and may be used to manipulate receptor function.
  • Understand the importance of scaffold and adaptor proteins in organizing and regulating receptor function
  • Explain experimental methods used to study receptors and be able to use this knowledge to critically analyse published research.
  • Discuss several human diseases that result from abnormal function of surface receptors, highlighting the evidence that supports this.
  • Utilise and integrate information from different sources.
  • Complete a data interpretation exercise.

Teaching Methods

The module is divided into four blocks, each focussed on a particular family of receptors. A reading list consisting of ‘review’ style and research papers is provided to accompany each block of lectures. Teaching in each block consists of a series of formal lectures summarising current knowledge and highlighting key research that has lead to our current  knowledge  about a particular receptor family.  Each block of lectures finishes with a lecturer-lead group discussion and critical analysis of  an original research article taken from the reading list. Questions which form the basis of the discussion are pre-circulated together with the research paper at the start of each block of lectures. These sessions are designed to give students practice and insight into the analysis and interpretation of data generated by the experimental methods described in lectures.


The module will be assessed by an open book data interpretation examination (100%) that will be released on Thursday morning week 6. The examination will be released on MOLE, and students will download, complete the work and submit online within 24 hours via TurnitIn.  The exam will consist of one multi-panel Data figure and 4 associated questions. Questions will be designed to assess the students understanding of the scientific context underpinning the research, the methods used to generate the data, the interpretation of the data and conclusions that can be made from the data, and what further work may be needed to confirm or extend the research conclusions. Not all questions will have the same weighting and there will be a word limit associated with each question.