MICR30030 Microbial Physiology

Academic Year 2024/2025

The lecture course provides the keys to the vast subject of bacterial metabolism. Bacteria use diverse strategies to capture energy and build new cellular materials. The most efficient energy transduction systems involve electron flow from a donor to a terminal acceptor through membrane-embedded transport chains. The free energy released is used to establish gradients of protons across membranes. The resulting protonmotive force can be used to do useful work such as ATP synthesis, active transport of solutes, or flagellar rotation. Bacteria use three external energy sources to generate protonmotive force: phototrophs use light whereas lithotrophs and organotrophs oxidise inorganic and organic fuels respectively. In circumstances where generation of ion gradients is not possible, organotrophs can obtain energy inefficiently by partial breakdown (fermentation) of organic compounds.
As well as explaining bacterial energy transduction, the course will cover the main metabolic pathways for biosynthesis of new cellular materials and breakdown of organic substrates. These include synthesis of sugars from carbon dioxide, glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, the pentose phosphate pathway, biosynthesis and beta-oxidation of fatty acids, biosynthesis of amino acids and nucleotides. Under anaerobic conditions, specialised groups of bacteria use carbon dioxide and molecular hydrogen to synthesise acetate (acetogenesis) or methane (methanogenesis). The lectures will explain how and why these two processes occur.

The practical component will include disruption of bacterial cells, fractionation of lysates by differential centrifugation, analysis of subcellular fractions by colorimetric assays, and analysis of Gram-negative outer membrane proteins by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module students should be able to: (1) explain how phototropic, lithotrophic and organotrophic bacteria generate and utilise protonmotive force; (2) describe basic bacterial fermentations; (3) describe the major pathways for synthesis of carbohydrate from carbon dioxide; (4) explain glycolysis and the citric acid cycle; (5) describe the role of the pentose phosphate pathway; (6) explain biosynthesis and beta-oxidation of fatty acids; (7) present an overview of amino acid and nucleotide biosynthesis; (8) explain acetogenesis and methanogenesis; (9) appreciate the importance of knowledge of bacterial metabolism in applied science.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours




Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lectures; laboratory practicals; active/task-based learning; peer and group work. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

It is recommended that students taking this module have previously completed CHEM20090 Chemistry for Biology, BIOC20050 Principles of Biochemistry, and MICR20050 Principles of Microbiology.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Microbial Physiology (INDM30030)

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Professor Wim Meijer Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Mr Mark Hogan Tutor
Yuhao Song Tutor