Cell Biology

Study cell biology or cytology online and learn about the most basic unit of living matter. Learn terminology and understand chemical reactions within cells.

Course Code: BSC110
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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An essential foundation course for all people interested in human health, animal care and animal studies. The cell is the basic unit of life. Its knowledge is most essential to understand how life works for higher animals and plants.  You will learn about cell structure, the cells chemical composition, organelles, DNA, Meiosis and Mitosis, membranes, protein structure function and synthesis, catalysis, cellular communication, transport, tissue formation and more.

Student Comment: "the course was better than I expected" "I am studying a Bachelor of Health Science next year at university. I gained far more knowledge from this course than I expected." J.McEwan 

  • Enrol and commence studying anytime
  • Work at your own pace and focus on things of greater interest to you.
  • Great tutors , highly qualified, and with years of experience stand ready to support you every step of the way

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Cells and Their Structure
    • History of cell biology
    • Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells
    • Cell shape and size
    • Cell structure
    • The nucleus including the nucleolus, euchromatin and heterochromatin
    • Differences in animal and plant cells
  2. Cell Chemistry
    • Cell chemical composition
    • Carbohydrates
    • Lipids
    • Nucleic acids
    • Proteins
    • Enzymes
    • Cell membranes
    • Golgi apparatus
  3. DNA, Chromosomes and Genes
    • DNA, Chromosomes, Genes
    • DNA replication
    • Telomeres and telomerase
    • Genetics
    • Case study in genetic inheritance
    • Phenotype and genotype
    • Gene mutations.
  4. Cell Division: Meiosis and Mitosis
    • Mitosis
    • Meiosis
  5. Cell Membranes
    • Structure of cell membranes
    • Movement of molecules through cell membranes
    • Endocytosis
    • Osmosis and filtration
    • Hydrostatic pressure
    • Active transport
    • Electro-chemical gradient
    • Nutrient and waste exchange in animal cells
    • Mediated and non-mediated transport
  6. Protein Structure and Function
    • Protein structure
    • Fibrous proteins
    • Globular proteins
    • Protein organisation
    • Primary to quaternary structure
    • Protein function
  7. Protein Synthesis
    • The function of ribonucleic acid in protein synthesis
    • Transcription and translation
    • Initiation
    • Elongation
    • Termination
  8. Food, Energy, Catalysis and Biosynthesis
    • Sources of energy
    • Metabolism within the cell
    • Catabolic metabolism
    • Anabolic metabolism
    • ATP movement
    • Kreb's cycle
    • Production and storage of energy
    • Energy production pathways from different foods
    • Biosynthesis of cell molecules
    • Mitochondria
    • Chloroplasts
  9. Intracellular Compartments, Transport and Cell Communication
    • Cell communication
    • Endocrine signalling
    • Paracrine signalling
    • Autocrine signalling
    • Cytoskeleton
    • Actin filaments
    • Intermediate filaments
    • Microtubules
  10. The Cell Cycle and Tissue Formation
    • The cell cycle
    • Phases of the cell cycle
    • Cell cycle regulation
    • Cell death
    • Cells to bodies
    • Stem cells
    • Animal tissues including muscle, connective, epithelial, nerve, blood

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Review basic cell structure and discuss the scope and nature of cell biology.
  • Describe the chemical components and processes of cells.
  • Describe the storage of genetic information within cells and how this information is passed on to the next generation.
  • Describe key concepts in molecular biology.
  • Discuss membrane structure and transport across cell membranes.
  • Discuss protein structure and function.
  • Describe and discuss protein synthesis.
  • Describe the significant processes involved in transfer and storage of energy in a cell.
  • Describe the significant processes that occur in cell communication and intracellular transport.
  • Describe the life cycle of cells and how they combine to create different types of tissues.

What are Cell Membranes? 

Membranes include any barrier surrounding and containing cells or cellular organelles. They are selectively permeable, allowing the transport of molecules and ions within and between cells. This facilitates the separation and regulation of metabolic processes. Plants, fungi and bacteria also have a cell wall outside the cell membrane.  The cell membrane is a plasma membrane.  Plasma membranes

Membranes are composed principally of lipids, particularly phospholipids (figure 1), which are simply lipids that contain phosphorus. Lipids usually compose about 50% of the membrane mass, although this varies according to the type of membrane. Proteins are the other major constituent of membranes, generally constituting around 25%, and up to 75% of the membrane mass.
The structure of membranes varies from organism to organism. Animal membranes consist primarily of two layers of phospholipids, collectively called the Phospholipid Bilayer. The bilayer consists of two rows of hydrophilic (water attracting) phospholipid ‘heads’ on the outer surfaces of the membrane, and the hydrophobic (water repelling) fatty acid tail facing inwards.  This bilayer is stable and spontaneously forms a barrier between two aqueous environments.

There are four major kinds of phospholipid in mammalian membranes and in addition to this the membranes contain glycolipids and cholesterol. An important property of lipid bilayers is that the individual lipid and protein molecules are free to rotate, and to move laterally. This has given rise to the Fluid Mosaic Model.  This is the current model for understanding the structure of cell membranes.  It is important to understand that the lipids and proteins inserted into the liquid bilayer are free to move on the 2D plane, thus the name fluid mosaic. 

Membrane proteins are inserted into the Phospholipid Bilayer, and have the role of effecting specific functions.

Proteins may be in the lipid bilayer in different ways:

  • Transmembrane or integral proteins expand though the entire membrane
  • Peripheral proteins which are which are indirectly associated with the cell and may be bound to the cell by either linkage with a fatty acid chain, or an oligosaccharide or through protein-protein interactions


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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

Jade Sciascia

Biologist, Business Coordinator, Government Environmental Dept, Secondary School teacher (Biology); Recruitment Consultant, Senior Supervisor in Youth Welfare, Horse Riding Instructor (part-completed) and Boarding Kennel Manager.
Jade has a B.Sc.Biol, Dip.Professional Education, Cert IV TESOL, Cert Food Hygiene.

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