Cancelled The Chemistry of Metal Ions in Biological Systems

Course content

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 interdisciplinary field, which has connections to biochemistry, inorganic chemistry, biology, biophysics and pharmacology. 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.

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 selected metal ions
  • Bioinorganic model systems.
  • Biological metal ion transport mechanisms (uptake, storage).
  • Metal ion and metal ion complexes’ interaction with proteins and nucleic acids.
  • Metal ions in diseases and medicine. 
  • Dioxygen transport proteins.
  • The coordination chemistry and mechanism of 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 selected metal ions e.g. zink (hydrolytic enzymes), copper (multi-copper oxidases).
  • Interaction of metal ions with DNA and RNA.
  • 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).

MSc Programme in Biochemistry

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.

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

A textbook on the topic could be: Bertini, Gray, Stiefel & Valentine Biological Inorganic Chemistry – Structure & Reactivity, University Science Books, USA + notes and articles.  See Absalon for detailed information on the textbook.

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

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

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

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 30 min.
Type of assessment details
The oral examination (with 30 min. preparation) includes a presentation of the written report.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

See Learning Outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 30
  • Class Instruction
  • 15
  • Preparation
  • 100
  • Theory exercises
  • 15
  • Project work
  • 45
  • Exam
  • 1
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 1
No admission restriction
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board for the Biological Area
Contracting department
  • Department of Chemistry
  • Department of Pharmacy
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Morten Jannik Bjerrum   (4-7e80737b517479767e3f7c863f757c)

Morten Jannik Bjerrum
Peter Waaben Thulstrup
Lars Bo Stegeager Hemmingsen

Saved on the 18-06-2022

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