Cell Biology - Online biology courses | Arts and Science Online

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Cell Biology

BIOL 330/3.0

An introduction to the cellular basis of biological variation. The course explores the control of cell function exerted by the nucleus, the pathways for building and fuelling cells, and the control of integrative cellular events.

Learning Outcomes

Related to the textbook, we cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 4: DNA, Chromosomes and Genomes. In this chapter we cover the details of DNA structure,  chromatin remodeling, chromatin structure
  • Chapter 5: DNA replication, repair and recombination. We focus primarily on the process of replication including telomeres, as well as recombination and repair.
  • Chapter 6: How cells read the genome from DNA to protein. We cover this chapter in great detail including transcription, translation, as well as the role of small RNAs in gene regulation. It is expected that you know the basics of transcription and translation before you take this course, we will link transcription and translation to protein function and localisation.
  • Chapter 7: Control of Gene Expression. Presented in combination with Chapter 2 we cover the regulation of transcription and translation as well as post-transcriptional and post-translation regulation.
  • Chapter 8: Manipulating proteins, DNA and RNA. We discuss many methods including cell culture, purification of nucleic acid and proteins, analysis and manipulation of DNA, studying gene expression by northern blot, microarrays and serial analysis of gene expression.
  • Chapter 10 and 11: Membrane Structure and membrane transport. We cover the typical structure of the membrane and how proteins embedded in the membrane can control the influx and efflux of ions, proteins etc.
  • Chapter 12: Intracellular compartmental and protein sorting and Chapter 13: Intracellular Vesicular Traffic. We cover this topic in detail, specifically looking at the mechanisms of getting proteins to the nucleus, mitochondria, ER, golgi, cell membrane, lysosome etc. Movement of proteins via vesicles is covered in detail.
  • Chapter 14: Energy Conversion: Mitochondria and Chloroplasts. We mostly cover the origin of mitochondria and how these create energy in the eukaryotic cell.
  • Chapter 15: Mechanisms of Cell Communication. We discuss the many mechanisms of cell-cell communication and the signal transduction pathways that are responsible for this communication.
  • Chapter 16: Cytoskeleton. We study the assembly and function of the cytoskeleton.
  • Chapter 17: The Cell Cycle. We briefly discuss the cell cycle and the proteins that are responsible for this process.
  • Chapter 18: Apoptosis. We briefly discuss apoptosis, the signal transduction pathway leading to programmed cell death, the role of Bcl1 and caspases in emphasized.
  • Chapter 19: Cell Junctions, Cell Adhesions, and the Extracellular Matrix. We cover this chapter in detail with a specific emphasis on the connections between gut epithelial cells, basal lamina, and the role of specific cell surface proteins such as integins. We also discuss the plant cell wall.
  • Cell Differentiation: As an example of cell differentiation we may look at the development of muscle cells. Each year we use a different example.


This course covers the cellular processes that determine when and where a protein will be produced in the cell, as well as cellular energy, cell division, cell death and morphogenesis. There is also a strong component on the techniques used in a molecular biology lab to understand these cellular processes.

“THE CELL IS LIKE A CITY”: When Sydney Brenner won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002, he also won the Canadian Gairdner award and I had the opportunity to hear him speak in Toronto. In his lecture he likened the cell to a city, and I have been using this analogy to introduce Cell Biology ever since. If the cell is like a city, then the people in the city are proteins, each protein has a different job, and each protein needs to go to a specific location to do this job. 

If you were looking at a city and wanted to understand what a single person does, you would want to know where they go for work, who they interact with at work and what their specific job is at that workplace.

In Cell Biology research we want to do essentially the same thing, in this course, we will learn how to determine the function of proteins, how they get to the correct part of the cell to do their job, and how they interact with other proteins to carry out their job. Through a group of assignments you will follow the path of research to understand the function of a single protein, and at the same time gain a deep understanding of Cell Biology.


To be determined
Course Dates: 
Exam Dates: 
TBD (Online Final Exam)


10%Online Quizzes (5) - each worth 2%
20%Your Favourite Gene Assignments (5) - each worth 4% each
25%Online Midterm
35%Online Final Exam

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Live Sessions

This course has optional live sessions (e.g. webinars, synchronous activities).

Final Examination

Students must write their exam on the day and time scheduled by the University. The start time may vary slightly depending on the off-campus exam centre. Do not schedule vacations, appointments, etc., during the exam period.


Professor Sharon Regan (regans@queensu.ca)

Instructor message

My name is Sharon Regan, I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Queen’s. I have been teaching Cell Biology or related courses since 2000 and have enjoyed finding new ways to make a somewhat complicated topic more interesting and more accessible to students. This online course has really been in the works for more than a decade as I have continually develop new learning approaches for my traditional face-to-face course and now have an opportunity to apply these approaches to this online course.

When I am not teaching I am still involved in Cell biology, my research is best described as Plant Cell Biology. We seek to understand basic cellular processes in plants by identifying the genes and proteins responsible and determining their function and interaction with other genes and proteins. My lab works primarily on three plants, Arabidopsis is a model plant system that most plant cell biologists use as a plant version of a “lab rat” and the more applied aspects of our research is focuses on poplar trees and potato.

Poplars are an important forest crop not only for pulp and paper but is emerging as a good source of biomass for the production of second generation biofuels, and it is also naturally able to uptake many contaminants in the soil so it is also used in bioremediation. We study the genes responsible for these processes and look for mechanisms to improve the. We are also interested in potato, it is the 4th most important food crop in the world and a major contributor to the Canadian economy. Potato is threatened by many pests and as a result farmers need to apply enormous amounts of pesticides to these plants in order to produce the potatoes we eat daily. Our research seeks to identify genes that are responsible for natural pest resistance and our goal is to help potato breeders develop more resistant potato varieties so that fewer pesticides need to be applied.

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 hours per week (120 hours per term) on the course.

Course Resources


SOLUS is Queen’s Student On-Line University System. You’ll have access to a SOLUS account once you become a Queen’s student. You’ll use SOLUS to register for courses, add and drop courses, update your contact information, view financial and academic information, and pay your tuition.

About OnQ

onQ is Queen's online learning platform. You'll log into onQ to access your course. All materials related to your course—notes, readings, videos, recordings, discussion forums, assignments, quizzes, groupwork, tutorials, and help—will be on the onQ site.

About Credit Units

Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

To take an online course, you’ll need a high speed internet connection as well as a microphone and speakers to be able to watch videos, hear sounds, and participate in interactive online activities. A webcam is recommended but not necessary.

System Requirements:

  • Laptop or Desktop computer purchased within the last 5 years. (mobile devices are not supported)
  • Windows Vista SP2/Mac OSX 10.9 or higher
  • Up to date versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer or Safari. Please note that Google Chrome is not recommended for use in our courses.
  • Most recent version of Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash

 See also Getting Started.


The deadlines for new applications to Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are in our Upcoming Application Dates section.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending when you start, your year, faculty, and program. Fees for Summer Term 2018 first-year Distance Career Arts & Science Domestic students are as follows: for a 3.0-unit course, $685.90; for a 6.0-unit course, $1371.80 See also Tuition and Fees.

Grading Scheme

The information below is intended for undergraduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Academic Regulations in other Faculties may differ.

Letter Grade Grade Point

GPA Calculators
Have your SOLUS grade report handy and then follow the link to the Arts and Science GPA calculators.

How does this affect my academics?
See the GPA and Academic Standing page.

Follow the link above for an explanation of how the GPA system affects such things as the Dean’s Honour List, requirements to graduate, and academic progression.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Grading Scheme
Please follow this link to the FAQ's

Campus Bookstore

All textbooks can be purchased at Queen’s Campus Bookstore.

Non-Queen’s Students

All Queen’s Arts and Science Online courses are open to students at other universities. Before applying as a visiting student, request a Letter of Permission from your home university that states that you have permission to take the course and apply it to your degree. See also Apply.

Academic Integrity

Please see Queen’s policy statement on academic integrity for information on how to complete an online course honestly.