Dartmouth Undergraduate Science Education Program
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Biol 68 - The Biophysical Chemistry of Biological Motors and Their Filament Tracks
(Identical to Chem 45)
Fall 08; 09  10A

In this course students will learn how complex cellular machines are studied, using the combined approaches offered by biological, chemical, structural, and morphological techniques.  Biological motors use the energy of hydrolysis of ATP to perform cellular work by interacting with a filamentous substrate.  Using dynein, kinesin, and myosin as examples, this course will present the cell biological, biochemical, and biophysical evidence that identified these proteins and characterized their motor activities.  This evidence was gained from the use of electron and high-resolution video light microscopy and reconstitution of functional protein assemblies from purified components.  Using this information as a base, the course will then discuss the chemical kinetics and thermodynamics of motor proteins.  Structural information, obtained by X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy, of key motor molecules will provide examples showing how these approaches inform not only our understanding of motor chemistry but also motor biology.  The laboratory section will provide students with exposure to motor protein analysis using video enhanced fluorescence microscopy and related techniques.

Prerequisites:  Bio 12, Chem 51 (or 57) and one of the following (Bio 40, 44, 45, or Chem 41).  Dist: SLA.  Kull and Sloboda

Lecture Schedule:

Week 1:

ATP hydrolysis and thermodynamics

Week 2:

Springs, levers, and elasticity

Week 3:

Diffusion and thermal ratchets

Week 4:

Polymers; filament ultrastructure

Week 5:

Motor protein structure and enzymology

Week 6:


Week 7:


Week 8:

Force production

Week 9:

Wrap-up and summary

Reading assignments will derive from three sources:

  1. An assigned textbook: Mechanics of Motor Proteins and the Cytoskeleton, by Jonathan Howard.
  2. Research papers from the original literature.
  3. Web sites (very useful for 3-D viewing and manipulation of crystal structures, etc.)

Laboratory Section:
The laboratory section will introduce students to the manipulation of isolated proteins and the reconstitution of motility systems in vitro using high resolution video enhanced differential interference contrast microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, and kinetic assays.  Five lab sections are planned, with the remaining time available for student initiated projects.

Week 1:

Introduction to video enhanced DIC microscopy

Week 2: 

Filament polymerization

Week 3:

Steady state and pre-steady state kinetics

Week 4:

In vitro motility assays

Week 5:

Motility inside living cells:  Dictyostelium, Chlamydomonas and mammalian tissue culture cells

Students will be assessed with weekly lab quizzes (25 points) and two lab write-ups (100 points).

Grading: Grades will be based on two class exams (100 points each) during the term, a final exam (150 points), laboratory performance (125 points) and class participation (25 points).

Students with Disabilities We encourage students with disabilities, including invisible disabilities like chronic diseases, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities to discuss what appropriate accommodations might be helpful to them.  Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations is requested to speak to one of us by the end of the second week of the term.  All such discussions are of course confidential, although we may consult with the Student Disabilities Coordinator to verify the extent of a disability, the range of accommodations suggested, etc.

As with every course at Dartmouth College, The Honor Principle applies to all work you perform in this class.  This means that everything you say in class and everything you submit for grading must derive from your own thoughts and ideas, not those of others.


Prof. Roger Sloboda
Program Director
Biological Sciences
222 LSC

Dean Margaret Funnell
Assistant Dean of the Faculty for Undergraduate Research
Parker House

Nancy Serrell
Director of Outreach
339 Blunt

Program funded by:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

and administered by:
Dartmouth College

Last modified: Thu, Apr 17, 2014
Site design by: Kathryn Sloboda