Fermentation Chemistry and Bioenergetics

Year of erogation: 
Unit Coordinator: 
Disciplinary Sector: 
Chemistry and Biotechnology of Fermentations
Second semester
Year of study: 

Learning outcomes of the course unit

The course has the purpose of providing the basic concepts essential to undertake the study of the thermodynamic and biochemical mechanisms of the functioning of living organisms and of the chemical mechanism underlying fermentative and enzymatic processes. In particular, highlight the synthetic production strategies of metabolic fuel in living organisms. The use of microorganisms or enzyme for the production of compounds that exert a functional role in food will also be discussed.

the acquisition of a formally correct languages is taken care of, the ability to express the content in a clear and straightforward way, is stimulated, the links between different parts of the course and how they contribute to the overall understanding of the system are underlined.
Application of knowledge:
the course provides the tools to rationally interpret the main biological pathways that lead to the production of high-energy compounds that are fundamental for secondary metabolism. The role of microorganisms and enzymes in the production of bioactive molecules will be investigated. It also stimulates thestudent's understanding of events that had previously been addressed only in aphenomenological way.


Knowledge of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Course contents summary

The course aims to provide the fundamental concepts essential to begin the study of bioenergetics of living organisms and of fermentation chemistry. In this regard, in the first part of the course, the concepts of prebiotic chemistry and of biological homochirality are taken into consideration. The argument related to the possible hypothesis of the birth of life on earth is then addressed. Subsequently, the energy production mechanisms of heterotrophic organisms (both prokaryotic and eukaryotic) and autotrophic (cyclic and non-cyclic photophosphorylation) are studied in depth. In the second part of the course will be taken into account: 1) concepts on the generation and on chemical mechanism of the fermentation processes; 2) enzymatic applications in the agro-food industry; concepts of circular bioeconomy. To better understand the processes described and to place them in a real context, practical examples are discussed with the students, highlighting where these concepts are applied.

Course contents

Energy, work, order; energy conservation and laws of thermodynamics; energy flows in nature and in non-equilibrium systems. Prebiotic chemistry, biological homochirality, prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Catabolism. Redox reactions in the processes of Glycolysis, Krebs cycle and Mitochondrial Respiration. Downward electron transport chains in biological systems. Cyclic and non-cyclic photophosphorylation and uphill electron transport. Chemical mechanism of fermentation processes, enzymes and coenzymes; role of enzymes and coenzymes in biological catalysis

Recommended readings

D.N. Nicholls, S.J.Ferguson, Bioenergetics 3, Academic Press, London
D.N. Nicholls, S.J.Ferguson, Bioenergetics 3, Academic Press, London

Teaching methods

The course takes place within 24 hours of lectures. During the lessons, students are guided to the understanding of the concepts of energy production in living organisms (Bioenergetics.) and knowledge of fermentative and enzymatic processes of interest in the agro-food sector. During each set of topics, and at the end, practical examples are discussed concerning the topics covered which are then discussed in order to allow the student to assess their level of understanding of the subject. The student participation is stimulated to rationalize the principles that living organisms use to produce metabolic fuels and bioactive molecules

Assessment methods and criteria

Verification sessions are scheduled during the course to verifiy the level of understanding of the concepts that are treated and their ability to assimilate them. In particular, it is evaluated how and if they are able to perceive the concept by asking them specific questions that solicit their participation in the definition of the topic in discussion(verification of the ability to understand). At the beginning or at the end of each specific topic, sessions are scheduled where real situations are addressed and students' ability to interpret and discuss concrete problems (capacity to apply knowledge in a context different from the theoretical part) are tested. The final exam consists of a written test where a discussion is scheduled on a bioenergetics and fermentation/biodigestion topic. The student's ability to manage the topics and his/her level of understanding of the concepts used is evaluated. The vote will takeall aspect into consideration.

Other informations

Teaching material is provided to students at the beginning of the course. The teacher remains with the students for clarification and discussion at the end of the lesson and is available to provide further explanation, by appointment.