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Spectroscopy of biomolecules


Spectroscopy of biomolecules


Academic year 2021/2022

Course ID
BIO0153B Pds 307-DDD
Prof.ssa Simonetta Geninatti Crich
Prof. Gloria Berlier
Degree course
[0101M22] Molecular Biotechnology
1st year
Teaching period
First semester
Course disciplinary sector (SSD)
CHIM/02 - physical chemistry
CHIM/03 - general and inorganic chemistry
Formal authority
Type of examination
Written and oral
Type of learning unit
Modular course
Basic knowledge in Inorganic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Biochemistry
Propedeutic for
All courses and practical activities dealing also with methods based on molecular spectroscopies

Sommario del corso


Course objectives

Spectroscopic methods play an increasingly important role in studying the molecular details of complex biological systems in health and disease. However, no single spectroscopic method can provide all the desired information on aspects of molecular structure and function in a biological system but the simultanous use of different methods.

The objectives proposed to students in this course are based on the following achievements:

1.  knowledge of the chemical, physical and physical-chemical principles at the basis of the generation of signals exploited in  molecular spectroscopies of biomolecules (small molecules and macromolecules), namely NMR spectroscopy, electronic spectroscopies (both in absorption and emission) and vibrational spectroscopy (main concepts)

2. good capability in critical understanding scientific texts

3. good capability in designing investigation of different samples by molecular spectroscopies, on the basis on their constitutive features, possible constrains related to limited amounts, types of outputs requested (identification; quantification)

4. good capability in the complementary use of the molecular spectroscopic methods indicated above


Results of learning outcomes

- Knowledge of main sample handling methods for NMR and electronic spectroscopic (both in absorption and emission) measurements

- Capability to design proper spectroscopic measurements for the investigation of biomolecular samples, taking into account the peculiar features of these samples (e.g, complexity of the matrix), and the specific target(s) to be pursued (identification/quantification)

- Capability to analyse data resulting from the methods indicated above.



Infrared spectroscopy:

- basis and utility for the investigation of biomolecular samples

Absorption electronic spectroscopy:

- origin of the energy transfer from the electromagnetic radiation to molecular electronic states

- types of electronic levels and electronic transitions

- solvatochromism

- UV circular dichroism

- study  of the protein structure by absorption electronic spectroscopy (principles, experimental methods)

- study  of the structure of nucleic acids by  absorption electronic spectroscopy (principles, experimental methods)


Photoluminescence electronic spectroscopy:

- radiative and radiation less decays from excited electronic states

- fluorescence and phosphorescence

- radiative and fluorescence lifetimes

- collisional quenching

- energy transfer through the space

-  study  of the protein structure by photoluminescence spectroscopy (principles, experimental methods)

- study  of the structure of nucleic acids by photoluminescence spectroscopy (principles, experimental methods)

 Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy applications in the determination of structure, dynamics, and interactions of biological molecules and macromolecules:

- Introduction to the NMR spectral parameters used in structural biology, namely the chemical shift, the J-coupling, nuclear Overhauser effects, and residual dipolar couplings.

- Resonance assignment, and NMR spectral parameters are their convertion into angle and distances between atoms in a macromolecules.

-Relaxation phenomena and mapping the molecular interactions, information on the binding interface as well as the determination of kinetic and thermodynamic constants..

- In cell/In tissue NMR spectroscopy.



Course delivery

The course will be delivered through  lessons in the lecture room (90%) and in labs (10%), for focus on some methodological aspects.
Part of the course will be devoted to NMR (3 CFU, 24 h) and part to electronic (absorption and emission) spectroscopy (2 CFU, 16 h)



Learning assessment methods

The exam is devoted to the assessment of the knowledge, and related understanding, of the program attained by the students. In addition, acquisition and understanding of basic knowledge in Chemistry and Biochemistry will be evaluated if necessary in relation to the program, as well as the use of a proper  scientific/technical language.

The examination is carried out in oral and written forms. The final mark is expressed in thirtieths.


Suggested readings and bibliography


Reference material is available at the course website.

Suggested textbooks (all available from the teachers):

- H. Friebolin “Basic one- and two-dimensional NMR spectroscopy”, VCH, 1993

- Ivano Bertini, Kathleen S. McGreevy, Giacomo Parigi “NMR of biomolecules” Wiley 2012.

- DW. Claridge “High-resolution NMR techniques in Organic Chemistry”, Pergamon 1999 (Elsevier Science)

N.J. Turro, Modern Molecular Photochemistry, University Science Books, 1991

C.N.R. Rao, Ultra-Violet and Visible Spectroscopy, Butterworths, third edition, 1966

J.R. Lakowitz, Principles of fluorescence spectroscopy, Plenum, 2000 I.D. Campbell



Per l'a.a corrente le lezioni saranno in presenza. 

Per l'a.a. corrente le lezioni saranno anche trasmesse in streaming tramite le pagine WebEx personali dei docenti, esclusivamente per studenti seriamente impossibilitati a partecipare alle lezioni in presenza.

A partire dal 11/10/21 la lezione della prof. Geninatti sarà dalle 14 alle 16  a seguire ci sarà la lezione della prof. Berlier dalle 16:00 alle 18:00 in Aula Leonardo via Nizza 52 e rispettivamente ai seguenti links:


Le modalità di svolgimento dell'attività didattica potranno subire variazioni in base alle limitazioni imposte dalla crisi sanitaria in corso.

For the current a.a the lessons will be held in presence.

For the current a.a. the lessons will also be streamed online via the personal Webex pages of the teachers, exclusively for students seriously unable to attend the lessons in the presence.

Starting from 11/10/21 the lesson of prof. Geninatti will be from 14:00 to 16:00 followed by the lesson of prof. Berlier from 16:00 to 18:00 in Aula Leonardo via Nizza 52 and respectively at the following links:



For the teaching material, forum etc enter into the moodle platform that you can find below


Due to the COVID-19 sanitary emergency, the modality of course delivery could vary during the year.



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