Introducing Toxicology into the Biochemistry Curricula: Using Cytochrome c (Cytc) Functionalities as a Model
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The electron transport chain (ETC) is a keystone topic of all biochemistry courses at the undergraduate level. Many ETC components, especially cytochrome c (Cytc), are also important to the field of toxicology. Unfortunately, many primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) are unable to offer dedicated toxicology courses and laboratories due to faculty expertise and/or enrollment requirements. In an effort to provide chemistry and biology undergraduates with toxicology perspective and experience, I have integrated Cytc toxicology, and its role in apoptosis, into my Biochemistry I and II curriculum. This approach fulfills two goals: 1) integration of toxicology concepts into the biochemistry curriculum and 2) validation of fundamental biochemistry principles through demonstration of “real world” relevance in the field of toxicology. These concepts include Cytc “leakage” to the cytosol, activation of the apoptotic signaling cascade, Cytc/membrane interactions, the modulation of apoptosis by Cytc phosphorylation, and chemical/environmental toxicants that activate this function of Cytc. I conclude with a discussion of student assessment in relation to this methodology. Overall, these materials provide biochemistry instructors with a primer to introduce toxicology concepts in the greater biochemistry curricula or a means for toxicology faculty to validate key biochemistry principles within their classroom.
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