Unit one: Cellular Structure and Function
Fundamentals of cellular biology, genetics and molecular biology are addressed. Major topics in
cellular structure and function include prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, metabolic pathways and
their regulation, membrane dynamics and cell surfaces, organelles, cytoskeleton, and cell cycle.
Major areas in genetics and molecular biology include viruses, chromatin and chromosomal
structure, genomic organization and maintenance, and the regulation of gene expression. The
cellular basis of immunity and the mechanisms of antigen-antibody interactions are included.
Attention is also given to experimental methodology.
Biological compounds – Macromolecular structure and bonding, Abiotic origin of biological
molecules, Enzyme activity, receptor binding, and regulation, Major metabolic pathways and
regulation – Respiration, fermentation, and photosynthesis, Synthesis and degradation of
macromolecules, Hormonal control and intracellular messengers, Membrane dynamics and cell
surfaces – Transport, endocytosis, and exocytosis, Electrical potentials and transmitter
substances, Mechanisms of cell recognition, intercellular transport and communication, Cell wall
and extracellular matrix, Organelles: structure, function, synthesis, and targeting – Nucleus,
mitochondria, and plastids, Endoplasmic reticulum and ribosomes, Golgi apparatus and secretory
vesicles, Lysosomes, peroxisomes, and vacuoles, Cytoskeleton: motility and shape – Actin-based
systems, Microtubule-based systems, Intermediate filaments, Bacterial flagella and movement,
Cell cycle: growth, division, and regulation (including signal transduction), Methods –
Microscopy (e.g., electron, light, fluorescence), Separation (e.g., centrifugation, gel
filtration, PAGE, fluorescence-activated cell sorting [FACS]), Immunological (e.g., Western
Blotting, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence).
Unit two: Genetics and Molecular Biology
Genetic foundations – Mendelian inheritance, Pedigree analysis, Prokaryotic genetics
(transformation, transduction and conjugation), Genetic mapping, Chromatin and chromosomes –
Nucleosomes, Karyotypes, Chromosomal aberrations, Polytene chromosomes, Genome sequence
organization – Introns and exons, Single-copy and repetitive DNA, Transposable elements, Genome
maintenance – DNA replication, DNA mutation and repair, Gene expression and regulation in
prokaryotes and eukaryotes: mechanisms – The operon, Promoters and enhancers, Transcription
factors, RNA and protein synthesis, Processing and modifications of both RNA and protein, Gene
expression and regulation: effects – Control of normal development, Cancer and oncogenes, Whole
genome expression (e.g., microarrays), Regulation of gene expression by RNAi (e.g., siRNA),
Epigenetics, Immunobiology – Cellular basis of immunity, Antibody diversity and synthesis,
Antigen-antibody interactions, Bacteriophages, animal viruses, and plant viruses – Viral
genomes, replication, and assembly, Virus-host cell interactions, Recombinant DNA methodology –
Restriction endonucleases, Blotting and hybridization, Restriction fragment length
polymorphisms, DNA cloning, sequencing, and analysis, Polymerase chain reaction.
Unit three: Organismal Biology
The structure, physiology, behavior and development of organisms are addressed. Topics covered
include nutrient procurement and processing, gas exchange, internal transport, regulation of
fluids, control mechanisms and effectors, and reproduction in autotrophic and heterotrophic
organisms. Examples of developmental phenomena range from fertilization through differentiation
and morphogenesis. Responses to environmental stimuli are examined as they pertain to organisms.
Major distinguishing characteristics and phylogenetic relationships of organisms are also
Animal Structure, Function and Organization – Exchange with environment – Nutrient, salt, and
water exchange, Gas exchange, Energy Internal transport and exchange – Circulatory, respiratory,
excretory, and digestive systems Support and movement – Support systems (external, internal, and
hydrostatic), Movement systems (flagellar, ciliary, and muscular), Integration and control
mechanisms – Nervous and endocrine systems, Behavior (communication, orientation, learning, and
instinct), Metabolic rates (temperature, body size, and activity).
Animal Reproduction and Development – Reproductive structures, Meiosis, gametogenesis, and
fertilization, Early development (e.g., polarity, cleavage, and gastrulation), Developmental
processes (e.g., induction, determination, differentiation, morphogenesis, and metamorphosis),
External control mechanisms (e.g., photoperiod).
Unit four: Plant Structure, Function, and Organization, with Emphasis on
Organs, tissue systems, and tissues, Water transport, including absorption and transpiration,
Phloem transport and storage, Mineral nutrition, Plant energetics (e.g., respiration and
Plant Reproduction, Growth, and Development, with Emphasis on Flowering Plants Reproductive
structures, Meiosis and sporogenesis, Gametogenesis and fertilization, Embryogeny and seed
development, Meristems, growth, morphogenesis, and differentiation, Control mechanisms (e.g.,
hormones, photoperiod, and tropisms).
Diversity of Life – Archaea – Morphology, physiology, and identification, Bacteria, Morphology,
physiology, pathology, and identification, Protista, Protozoa, other heterotrophic Protista
(slime molds and Oomycota), and autotrophic Protista, Major distinguishing characteristics,
Phylogenetic relationships, Importance (e.g., eutrophication, disease).
Fungi – Distinctive features of major phyla (vegetative, asexual and sexual reproduction),
Generalized life cycles, Importance (e.g., decomposition, biodegradation, antibiotics, and
pathogenicity), Lichens, Animalia with emphasis on major phyla, Major distinguishing
characteristics, Phylogenetic relationships, Plantae with emphasis on major phyla – Alternation
of generations, Major distinguishing characteristics, Phylogenetic relationships.
Unit five: Ecology and Evolution
The interactions of organisms and their environment, emphasizing biological principles at levels
above the individual are addressed. Ecological topics range from physiological adaptations to
the functioning of ecosystems. Although principles are emphasized, some questions may consider
applications to current environmental problems. Topics in evolution range from genetic
foundations through evolutionary processes and to their consequences. Evolution is considered at
the molecular, individual, population and higher levels. Some quantitative skills, including the
interpretation of simple mathematical models, may be required.
Ecology – Environment/organism interaction – Biogeographic patterns, Physiological ecology,
Temporal patterns (e.g., seasonal fluctuations), Behavioral ecology – Habitat selection, Mating
systems, Social systems, Resource acquisition, Population ecology, Population
dynamics/regulation, Demography and life history strategies, Community ecology – Direct and
indirect interspecific interactions, Community structure and diversity, Change and succession,
Ecosystems – Productivity and energy flow, Chemical cycling.
Evolution – Genetic variability – Origins (mutations, linkage, recombination, and chromosomal
alterations), Levels (e.g., polymorphism and heritability), Spatial patterns (e.g., clines and
ecotypes), Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, Macroevolutionary and microevolutionary processes – Gene
flow and genetic drift, Natural selection and its dynamics, Levels of selection (e.g.,
individual and group), Trade-offs and genetic correlations, Natural selection and genome
evolution, Synonymous vs. nonsynonymous nucleotide ratios, Evolutionary consequences – Fitness
and adaptation – Speciation, Systematics and phylogeny, Convergence, divergence, and extinction,
Coevolution, History of life – Origin of life, Fossil record, Paleontology and paleoecology,
Lateral transfer of genetic sequences.