Kursussøgning, efter- og videreuddannelse – Københavns Universitet

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Kursussøgning, efter- og videreuddannelse

The Chemistry of Metal Ions in Biological Systems

Practical information
Study year 2016/2017
Block 1
Programme level Full Degree Master
Course responsible
  • Morten Jannik Bjerrum (4-7e80737b517479767e3f7c863f757c)
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Pharmacy
Course number: NKEK14015U

Course content

The central purpose is to illustrate how metal ions are essential for life. Their function may range from the simple charge balance and structural role to the complex roles in which they transfer electrons, break bonds, make bonds or control biochemical reactions.
This course deals with the chemical reactivity and function of metal ions in biological systems. This field of research (also called bioinorganic chemistry or biological inorganic chemistry) is a relatively new interdisciplinary field, which has connections to biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, biology, biophysics, pharmacology, toxicology and nanotechnology.

The course content is dynamic and will reflect the current hot topics/new discoveries in bioinorganic chemistry. The course will contain selections of the following subjects:
Biological trace elements, and their abundance and bioavailability.
The coordination chemistry of metal ions and bioinorganic model systems.
Biological metal ion transport mechanisms (uptake, storage ). Metabolism of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur. Metal ion and metal ion complexes’ interaction with proteins and nucleic acids. Metal ions in diseases and medicine. 
The coordination chemistry of biological dioxygen transport. Dioxygen activating iron enzymes such as the heme containing cytochrome P450. Dioxygen activating copper enzymes (multi-copper oxidases) and other enzymes in oxygen metabolism such as superoxide dismutase, peroxidases and catalase. Nitrogenase and biological dinitrogen fixation. The bioinorganic chemistry of  zink (hydrolytic enzymes), molybdenum (sulfite oxidase) and nickel (urease, NiFe hydrogenase) metallo-enzymology.
Metalloproteins in biological electron transfer (photosynthesis, respiration) and the physical nature of electron transfer. Bioinorganic chemistry in biotechnology, environmental context and in biocatalysis.
Introduction to the theory behind experimental techniques used for studying metal ions in biological systems. Examples of such techniques are mass spectrometry (MS), electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy (EPR), circular dichroism (CD), Perturbed angular correlation spectroscopy,  X-ray absorption spectroscopies.


Learning outcome

The objective of this course is to give the students a thorough introduction to the function of metal ions in biological systems and make the students able to analyze the structure and function of metal ion containing biomolecules.

After the end of this course the students should be able to:

Describe the different functions metal ions can have in biological systems

Provide an overview over metalloproteins function in biological systems

Provide an overview of biological selection of important metal ions.

Have theoretical insight into which spectroscopic techniques that are appropriate for investigating a specific metalloprotein.

Discuss why too high and/or too low concentrations of trace elements can be harmful to living organisms

Be able to find and read primary scientific articles within the field and explain the content.

Communicate clearly written and orally issues of bioinorganic chemistry

Describe the function of metalloenzymes on a molecular basis

Critically evaluate the data presented in scientific articles.

Suggest the possible function of a particular transition metal ion in a biological molecule when presented with structural information about its coordination environment.

Predict whether an enzyme catalysed reaction is likely to involve metal ions and in the positive case, what metal ions are likely.

Recommended prerequisites

Basic courses in chemistry and biochemistry at the respective faculties.
Course in chemistry like: General Chemistry for Life Sciences( LKEB10108),
Organic Chemistry for Life Sciences LKEB10109.
Course in biochemistry like: Biochemistry 1 (LKEB10077) or Chemistry of Macromolecules, Cofactors and Metal Ions in Biological Systems (NKEB14014U).


The course is an inter-faculty course with teachers from SUND(1 week), SCIENCE(6 week). One week will be reserved for project work. Teaching will be on Frederiksberg and Nørre Campus

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MSc Programme in Biology-Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Chemistry
MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Environmental Chemistry and Health


Study Board of Biomolecular Sciences and Technology

Course type

Single subject courses (day)


Morten Jannik Bjerrum
Peter Waaben Thulstrup
Lars Bo Stegeager Hemmingsen


1 block


---- SKEMA LINK ----

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, individual work on a project with the possibility of study groups, presentation and discussion of articles, instrument demonstrations, and theoretical exercises.


No admission restriction




Bertini, Gray, Stiefel & Valentine Biological Inorganic Chemistry – Structure & Reactivity, University Science Books, USA, 2007 + notes and articles.


Category Hours
Lectures 30
Theory exercises 15
Colloquia 15
Project work 40
Preparation 105
Exam 1
English 206


Type of assessment

Oral examination, 30 min.
The oral examination (with 30 min. preparation) includes a presentation of the written report.


All aids allowed

Marking scale

7-point grading scale

Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning Outcome

Censorship form

External censorship


Same as ordinary exam. 

After adjustments the written report can be submitted again (at least 2 weeks before the reexam).

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