Fall 2020 - CHEM 459 D200

Special Topics in Organic Chemistry (3)

Molecu.Aspec.of Chemoreception

Class Number: 8393

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Tue, Thu, 2:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 15, 2020
    Tue, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    CHEM 380 with a minimum grade of C-, or permission of the instructor.



An advanced, in-depth treatment of a specialized area of organic chemistry.


Please note, this course outline was accurate at the time of publication but is subject to change.

Mode of Instruction:

4 lecture hours/week
Lecture: Synchronous

Molecular Aspects of Chemoreception

The chemical senses (taste, smell and nociception) link a living organism with its environment. Various strategies for sensing chemical substances in the environment and of responding to them have arisen over evolutionary time. The purpose of chemoreception is for a living organism to find nutrients, interact with other members of its species, interact with other organisms, regulate its growth and reproduction and avoid toxins. Many substances in the environment are sensed, and these range in molecular complexity from simple (such as H+, CO2, water, sugars or amino acids), to complex lipids, alkaloids, terpenes and other natural products. These signals serve many different functions. They can simply reflect the physical properties of the environment, or they can be emitted as semiochemicals (signal chemicals) for communication within or between species, or they can be signals emitted within a multicellular organism to regulate metabolism, growth and behaviour (i. e. hormones or neurotransmitters). Despite the bewildering array of signals, there are elegant common underlying molecular mechanisms in their detection. In this course we will learn about these mechanisms, focusing on the physical interactions between the signals and their chemoreceptors. We will address how Nature has solved the problem of encoding the bewildering diversity of molecular structure in a genetically economical way.

Lecture Topics:

  1. Review of cellular components, their structures and expression
  2. Molecular interactions between small molecules and macromolecules & techniques used to evaluate them
  3. Chemoreception in prokaryotes
  4. Chemoreception in multicellular eukaryotes:
    • Invertebrates: insects, nematodes, acari, crustaceans and molluscs
    • Vertebrates (e.g., mice, rats, dogs, humans)
    • Plants: interactions with the soil and with herbivores
  5. Signal transduction mechanisms
  6. Coding in chemosensory systems
  7. Basic neuronal mechanisms and feedback systems in animals


  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Literature Research for Project 10%
  • Presentation 30%
  • Review Article 40%


Project: Students will work on a project, which will include a deep search of the literature on a particular topic related to chemoreception, a presentation to the class and a written review of their topic.

Online Exam Invigilation: Students completing exams remotely must comply with the online invigilation procedures implemented by the course instructor.



Technology Requirements: Students are required to have a desktop or laptop computer, high-speed internet access, and a webcam and microphone (built-in or external) to participate in online courses.


Any biochemistry text will cover the information reviewed for the first lecture topic. We will use recent reviews from the literature as a basis.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

A grade of C- or better is required for all prerequisite courses.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).