Chemical biology is a burgeoning field that has rapidly risen to prominence. This surge of interest has been fuelled by chemical biology’s applicability to understanding critical processes in live cells or model organisms in real time. This success has arisen because chemical biology straddles a nexus between chemistry, biology, and physics. Thus, chemical biology can harness rapid chemistry to observe or perturb biological processes, that are in turn reported using physical assays, all in an otherwise unperturbed living entity.
Although its boundaries are endless, the multidisciplinary nature of chemical biology can make the field seem daunting; we beg to differ! Here, we deconstruct chemical biology into its core components, and repackage the material. In the process we build up for each student a practical and theoretical knowledge bank that will set these students on their way to understanding and designing their own chemical biology experiments.
We will discuss fluorescence as a general language used to read out biological phenomena as diverse as protein localization, membrane tension, surface phenomena, and enzyme activity. We will proceed to discuss protein labeling strategies and fusion protein design. Then we will discuss larger and larger scale chemical biology mechanism and screening efforts. Highlights include a large amount of new data, tailored in the lab videos, and a large number of skilled presenters.
Welcome to Chemical Biology: Concepts and techniques
A very warm welcome to you, our new recruits! We'll start you off by acquainting you with the answers to big questions like why study chemical biology and what makes it special. We'll then show some highlights of the course that you are about to take. Finally, we want you to understand some fundamentals, so we are going to start off with some core concepts framed from the perspective of chemical biology.
The Devil is in the Minutest Detail
A picture used to paint a thousand words. But with the advent of multiple color imaging, microscopy can open a lens with which to view life that few other techniques are capable of. We are thus going to take you on a colorful tour that will show you specific fluorophores, explain why different fluorophores have different colors, and how to rationalize why a molecule is fluorescent. Then we will use these fluorophores in cells, to visualize important cellular processes.
A ruler over time and space! Fluorescent assays to measure complex parameters in real time
Here we will discuss how different fluorescent techniques have found fantastically useful applications to understand specific biological regulation processes in vitro and in live cells. We will focus on chromatin regulation and regulation of membrane tension as these are two systems which, without such techniques, we would not have the level of understanding we have today.
Putting proteins to work for us
The classical view of biological science is the laboratory worker working hard to understand a specific protein of interest. But through chemical biology, we have been able to employ proteins to do some of this important work for us. In this module you will learn how to deploy modified protein domains to perform custom-designed functions using light-based techniques as a readout.
Making light work of it on a larger and larger scale
In recent years numerous chemical biology processes have harnessed light-induced chemistry to control biology in terms of turning on or off inhibition, and exerting remote control of localization or chemical reactivity, amongst numerous other examples not covered here. We shed some light on these processes and exemplify the full spectrum of procedures possible using such approaches.
Casting wide your net
We've learned how complex biology is, and how resourceful chemical biologist have started to peer into this complex landscape using custom-designed probes. But given the huge complexity of biology, we often have to start from ground zero, screening for a specific molecule or identifying a target of an interesting molecule. Here we will discuss methods that are ideal for these purposes in cells and in vitro.
I knew from the start this would be over my head, and boy, it sure was. But that’s one of the benefits of moocs: you can take a class that’s a little beyond your grasp, take away as much as you can, and save the rest as aspirational motivation. For my...
I knew from the start this would be over my head, and boy, it sure was. But that’s one of the benefits of moocs: you can take a class that’s a little beyond your grasp, take away as much as you can, and save the rest as aspirational motivation. For my purposes, it was a great success.
I learned the difference between fluorescence and phosphorescence and all about the Jablonsky diagrams that spelled it out; I learned about membrane tension and the pathway that detects and adjusts for it; I got a good refresh on the properties of amino acids and things like the catalytic triad; and in more general terms, I dealt with assays at a level of detail that was scary.
I spent 51 hours on site rather than the 21 hours predicted, but some of that is because of an obsession with note-taking. And I passed, though I probably didn't deserve to purely on the basis of knowledge retained (good test-taking skills, that obsessive note-taking, and a lot of persistence paid off).
FMI I posted about the course on my personal website: