CMM 404/504 Cell Biology of Disease

Instructors:  Lonnie Lybarger, PhD (Course Director), and additional faculty from the College of Medicine. 

Overall course objectives and expected learning outcomes: This team-taught course is designed to provide a solid introduction to graduate-level cell biology with an emphasis on how key pathways contribute to human disease. The course format consists of discussion-oriented lectures on key concepts in cell biology, with each concept linked to specific diseases caused by dysregulation of the relevant pathways. Course topics will be divided into broad cell biology themes with related diseases as “case studies” to illustrate the connection between cell biology and health. Contact hours will include ~2/3 time used for lecture and ~1/3 time for group activities to integrate course material through discussion of journal papers, related histology/cell structure, and methods tutorials.

This course was designed to complement the curriculum of the Cellular and Molecular Medicine Master’s Program, with its emphasis on the biology of disease. Although designed for CMM Master’s students, interested students from other Programs are welcome.

Permission of the Course Director is required for undergraduates to enroll for this class. Enrollment is limited 25 students.

Example themes in cell biology to be covered:

  • Cell transport (diseases such as cholera and cystic fibrosis)
  • Cytoskeleton (diseases such as hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies)
  • Protein processing/trafficking/transport (microbial immune evasion)
  • Cell cycle (diseases such as cancer)
  • Cell migration/development/chemotaxis (developmental defects and cancer)
  • Gene Expression (diseases such as cancer)
  • transcription, translation, miRNA, post-translational modifications

Prerequisites:  The prerequisites are courses in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology at the advanced undergraduate level. Additional or more advanced courses will be beneficial. Students must have a sound foundation in the structure and function of proteins, the structure of nucleic acids, enzyme and chemical reaction kinetics, and molecular biology and molecular genetics.

Credit hours:  3

Semester Offered:  Summer, Session 2

Course meeting times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 3 hours per session, for 5 weeks.

Office hours:  By appointment

Textbooks:     Recommended: Molecular Biology of the Cell by Alberts, et al., 6th edition.

Grade policies:  Grades are based on class participation (15%), quizzes (60%), and the final exam (25%). The final exam is cumulative to reinforce concepts from earlier lectures. Class participation consists of: i) attendance and ii) active participation in discussions. Each component counts toward 50% of the participation grade. The grading scale for this course is as follows: A = 90-100%, B = 80-90%, C = 70-80%, D = 60-70%, E = below 60%.

Additional Requirements for CMM 504*:  Students receiving credit for CMM 504, the graduate-level version of the course, will be required to prepare an in-class presentation highlighting research into the molecular and cellular mechanisms of a disease of their choice. The presentation should highlight research involving pathways and concepts covered in the course. Faculty guidance will be available for the selection of materials and for the presentations. Participation in these exercises will count for 10% of the grade in the course (with the other grades proportionately reduced to add up to 90%).

*NOTE: This additional requirement only applies when the undergraduate section (CMM 404) is open.  

Absence policies:  The University of Arizona absence policies apply:

  • All holidays or special events observed by organized religions will be honored for those students who show affiliation with that particular religion,
  • Absences pre-approved by the UA Dean of Students (or Dean's designee) will be honored.

Expected classroom behavior

  • Students are expected to be engaged only in the activities of the class. Use of pagers, cell phones, etc. during class time will not be allowed.
  • All student contributions to the course are expected to be original unless due reference is given to their origin.  Plagiarism will be handled according to the Student Code of Academic Integrity: (
  • Threatening behavior by students will be handled according to the University of Arizona policy stated in

Special materials required for the class:

  • No course content is knowingly offensive.
  • Students registered with the Disability Resource Center must submit appropriate documentation to the instructor if they are requesting reasonable accommodations (
  • The information contained in the course syllabus is subject to change with reasonable advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructors.

Download: Cell Biology