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CODE 88376
Propedeuticità in ingresso
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The teaching is a basic biological teaching which aims to provide the fundamental functional principles of living matter. The course will provide the fundamental notions and topics of cellular and general physiology which can be applied for the study of the systems of animals.


The planned training activities (frontal lessons) will allow the students of the STAN Course to acquire the general knowledge and fundamental notions of Physiology that are necessary for the professional opportunities in the field of Environmental and Natural Sciences.

Specifically, the student must be able to:

  • to know the basic mechanisms of the main physiological processes;
  • to acquire the fundamental notions of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, also in relation to the structural organization of the biological systems considered;
  • to reach a knowledge of the Physiology of the main organism's systems by integrating the different physiological functions.

Skills acquired at the end of the course: At the end of the course the student must have acquired a general view of the physiological mechanisms, from the molecular-cellular level up to that of the organs and systems. In particular, the student will have to know the regulatory mechanisms that allow the different systems to work in a coordinated way within the organism. The skills acquired will make it possible for the student to have an adequate understanding of international publications on general physiology and the progress of knowledge in the field.


The teaching method includes at least 28 frontal lessons of 2 hours each.

Lectures in the classroom are delivered through multimedia presentations.

Attendance at the course is strongly recommended.



Introduction to Physiology

Composition and characteristics of living organisms. General principles of physiology and regulation of physiological activities: structure/function relationship, homeostasis, plasticity, redundancy, adaptation, feedback control. Organization of organisms: cells, tissues, organs, systems. Cell types. Staminal cells. Environments: adaptation of animals to environmental factors.

Liquid compartments of organisms

External and internal environment. Compartmentalization. Intra- and extra-cellular fluids. Membrane physiology Structure and composition of cell membranes. Main biopolymers present in living organisms.

Transports. Diffusion and Fick's law. Ionic distribution and Gibbs-Donnan equilibrium. Osmosis and law of Vant'off.  Facilitated diffusion: simporto and antiporto. Primary active transport: sodium / potassium pump, calcium pumps (SERCA and PMCA), proton pumps. Secondary active transport of sugars, amino acids etc. Vesicular transport: endocytosis and exocytosis.

Transduction of chemical signals.

Membrane receptors: channel receptors, the pathways of the second messengers: the pathways of protein kinase A, the path of inositol phosphate, the path of calcium. Apoptosis, peculiarity of the process in development, differentiation and in the adult. Cellular morphological characteristics and phases of the apoptotic program.

Bioelectrical Potentials and Synaptic Transmission

Bioelectrical potentials. Membrane potential; Nernst's equation; Goldman equation; role of the Na / K pump. Graduated Potentials: depolarizing or hyperpolarizing. Action potential (PA): ionic phases and mechanisms, depolarization (Hodgkin cycle), repolarization, posthumous potential. Conduction of the PA: conduction speed, unidirectionality. Encoding of stimulus intensity.

Neurons: functional and morphological characteristics. Myelination. Saltatory conduction in myelinated fibers. Glial cells.

The synapses. Electrical synapses and chemical synapses. Neurotransmitters: exocytosis and deactivation. Postsynaptic receptors: ionotropics and metabotropics. Excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. Synaptic integration: spatial and temporal summation. Presynaptic and postsynaptic inhibition. Facilitation and anti-facilitation. Synaptic plasticity. Neuromuscular plaque.

Nervous system

Characteristics and evolution of the nervous system. General characteristics of the nervous system of vertebrates. Central and Peripheral Nervous System. Overview of Central Nervous System: Encephalous and Spinal Cord. Reflections: reflex arc; innate and conditioned reflexes; spinal reflexes (stretching and feedback reflex). Nerves. Outline of the Peripheral Nervous System (somatic and autonomic nervous system).

Sensory  receptors

Sensory receptors: structural arrangement, characteristics and generality. Conversion of sensory information: transduction (potential of the receptor / generator) and codification (onset and transmission of action potentials). Stimulus quality; stimulus intensity; stimulus duration: phasic receptors and tonic receptors. Mechanoreceptors: corpuscles of Pacini; neuromuscular spindles; organ of the lateral line of fish; auditory and vestibular organ. Photoreceptors and visual systems: vertebrate eye (phototransduction mechanism, visual processing in the retina); eye of invertebrates (example of the limulus). Chemoreceptors: general aspects of taste and smell..

Physiology of the muscle

Motility: amoeboid movement; Ciliation movement; Muscle contraction. Classification of muscles in vertebrates: smooth, cardiac streaked and skeletal striatum. Striated muscle: the sarcomere. Transduction of chemical energy into mechanical energy; electromechanical coupling; energy sources for contraction; the motor unit; mechanics of muscle contraction (isometric and simple isotonic and tetanic shocks); types of muscle fibers. Smooth muscle (outline): contraction mechanism; factors that determine the contraction of smooth muscle. Single-unit and multi-unit smooth muscle. Cardiac muscle (outline): potential pacemakers; action potentials in the conduction tissue and contractile fibers; contraction mechanism. Molluscs gripping muscles.

Cardiovascular system

Circulating fluids: hemolymph and blood. Morpho-functional organization of the circulatory system. Open and Closed Circulatory System. Blood in humans: plasma and corpuscular elements. Red blood cells: function and catabolism of hemoglobin. White blood cells. Respiratory function of blood: oxygen transport, respiratory pigments, hemoglobin, hemoglobin dissociation curve with oxygen, functional differences between hemoglobin and myoglobin, factors that regulate the affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen: carbon dioxide ( Bohr effect), temperature, pH, metabolites. Carbon dioxide transport in plasma and erythrocytes. Haldane effect. Heart: anatomical and functional aspects: characteristics of myocardial tissue. Electrical and mechanical activity of the heart: cardiac cycle; stroke volume and cardiac output. Intrinsic and extrinsic cardiac activity regulation: Starling law. Blood pressure. Blood vessels: role of arteries, arterioles, capillaries and veins. Capillary exchanges. Examples of cardiocirculatory adaptations in the giraffe.


Energy and food function. Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Trophic categories and types of food intake in vertebrates and invertebrates. Types of Diet. Carnivores, Herbivores, Omnivores. Strategies for food intake (filtration, etc.). Endocellular and extracellular digestion. General characteristics of digestive systems in vertebrates. Digestion and absorption. Mechanical and enzymatic digestion. Carbohydrate digestion. Digestion of lipids. Digestion of proteins. Digestive system of the man: anatomical outline and function of the digestive tract (mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, intestine). Glands attached: liver, pancreas, salivary glands. Motility of the alimentary canal: peristaltic and segmentation movements. Examples of digestive systems in invertebrates and vertebrates: intra and extracellular digestion in bivalve molluscs, digestive system in fish, birds and ruminants.

Energy metabolism

Carbohydrates, fats and proteins as an energy source; significance of ATP in cell metabolism. Energy Metabolism: Calorie value of food. Energy balance. Basal Metabolism (BMR) and Standard Metabolism (SMR): meaning, measurement, factors that influence it. Allometric relationship between BMR and body mass. Respiratory quotient. Maximum speed of Metabolism (MMR). Thermogenic effect of food (DIT).

Chemical regulation of the functions

Endocrine system: general aspects. Classification of chemical messengers: neuroendocrine, endocrine, paracrine, autocrine regulators. Chemical classification of hormones. Synthesis and transport in the blood. Receptors and mechanism of action of hormones: membrane receptors and intracellular receptors. Regulation of hormonal secretion. Hypothalamic-hypophysis axis. Adenohypophysis and neurohypophysis. Main endocrine glands of the organism (pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands). Endocrine disrupters (IE): differences and similarities with hormones. Trend and mode of action. History of IE. Actions of EDs at the level of development and of the adult. Routes through which the exposure of the IE occurs. POPs Dioxins, PCBs, Atrazine, organotins.

Respiratory System

Cellular Breathing and External Breathing. Gas exchange: Gills, Trachee and Lungs. Skin respiration. Human respiratory system. Mechanics of breathing: inhalation exhalation. Lung capacity. Breathing control. Gas exchanges with blood. Examples of respiratory systems in animal species.

Osmoregulation and excretion

Osmoregulation and excretion: definition and principles. Aqueous exchanges: osmosis. Acquaporine: discovery, structural and functional characteristics. Water exchanges in organisms: surface/volume ratio of body; water permeability of tegument. Osmotic stress: organisms responses. Osmoregulation in aquatic organisms (of sea and fresh water). Renal system: osmoregulation and excretion. Metabolic waste. Excretory-osmoregulatory apparatus in animals. Osmoregulatory organs in Invertebrates: contractile vacuoles; nephridia; antennal glands; tubules of the Malpighi. Osmoregulatory organs in Vertebrates Vertebrate kidney: general features; nephron structure, cortical and juxtamidollar nephrons; glomerular ultrafiltration: mechanisms and regulation; the tubular reabsorption processes: reabsorption of water, salts and substances, maximum transport, renal threshold; the tubular secretion processes; the processes of reabsorption and tubular secretion; role of Henle's loop in the genesis of vertical osmotic gradient in the medulla, role of urea; role of the "vasa recta". Osmoregulators Accessories in Vertebrates (rectal gland, salt gland, gills).

Body fluids and acid-base equilibrium

Liquids Compartments. Intra- and extra-cellular liquids Acid-base balance of extracellular compartments: blood pH values in vertebrates, buffer power of plasma proteins, hemoglobin buffer power, buffer power of mineral elements, importance of bicarbonate/carbonic acid system, graphical representation of the buffering power of the blood: the Davenport diagram; role of the respiratory system and kidney in the base acid balance.

Thermal relations between animals and environment

Temperature and vital functions. Temperature and biological activity of macromolecules (eg of lactic dehydrogenase and acetylcholinesterase). Heta shock proteins (HSP). Fluidity of biological membranes: definition of fluidity; role of legnth of fatty acids and cholesterol. Homeoviscosity. Fluidity: effect of temperature and atmospheric pressure. Thermal exchanges between animals and environment (Conduction, Convection, Evaporation, Irradiation). Thermal inertia. Thermal neutrality. Body Temperature Regulation: thermoregulators and thermoconforms.  Classification of animals based on body temperature: homeotherms, pecilotherms, heterothermals.


“Fisiologia Animale” A. Poli, EdiSES

“Fisiologia” C.L. Stanfield, EdiSES

“Fisiologia” R.M. Berne & M.N. Levy, CEA




Lessons  will take place in the first semester starting from  21 September 2020 and in the second semester starting fromn 15 febrary 2021 according to the timetable shown on

The timetable of all courses can be consulted on

Class schedule




Oral exam and preliminary multiple choice test.

Admission to oral exam takes place after passing a written test with 30 multiple choice quitz (at least 2/3 correct answers). The result of the test does not influence the final vote.Booking:

The examination procedure to assess the achievement of the objectives set will take place with an oral examination, and is always be conducted by a Commission consisting of at least two tenured teachers (or in cases limited by a tenured professor and a lecturer of the subject designated by the CCS) and has a duration of at least 20 minutes. The Commission, appointed in this way, is able to verify with high accuracy the achievement of the educational objectives of the teaching.

At least 2 exams will be available in the winter session (January-February) and 4 exams in the summer session (June, July, September).




Admission to oral exam takes place after passing a written test with 30 multiple choice quitz.

The Commission accurately verifies the achievement of the educational objectives of the teaching by asking different questions related to the program actually carried out during the lessons of the course. For the final evaluation of the student the commission evaluates the following requirements: level of knowledge of the topics covered by the questions, exposure skills, ability to reason and link with other topics of the course. In the event that the training objectives are not achieved, the student is invited to better verify his / her knowledge and possibly to make use of further explanations by contacting the teacher in charge of the course.


Attendance at the course is strongly recommended.