Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course aims at teaching the basic functional aspects of living organisms, with an emphasis on the systems of production and accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites of food interest, both for nutritional and gustative purposes. From this standpoint, the course aims to provide the key to understand the ecophysiological rationale behind the role of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity.
Course contents summary
- Key substances of living organisms: lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, DNA. Enzymes and their roles.
- Morphogenesis and plant secondary metabolism.
Autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms. Cytology: the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell structure, the cellular organization, the physiological and ecological role of its components. Differences between animal and plant cells. The plant cell as a laboratory for the production of compounds relevant for food use, both for nutritional and gustative purposes: biological (primary and secondary metabolism). Unique plant cell structures (vacuoles, plastids, wall) and their biological function and relapses on food uses. Histology: meristematic tissues, adult and definitive tissues. Structures devoted to the secretion and accumulation of plant secondary metabolites. Histological anatomy of roots, stems (in primary and secondary structure) and leaves, with examples functional to the obtention of foods. Organography of leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and their role in the accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites. Asexual and gamic reproduction. Botanical relevance of plant tissues and plant organs in recognition of plants, in quality control and in the production and accumulation of the food-related ingredients. The variability of plant secondary metabolism in relation to physiological and ecological factors and the impact on food use of plant derivatives.
- Plant Systematics.
Fundamentals of plant systematics: species concepts, taxonomic groups, and methods in systematic nomenclature. Main families of food, aromatic and poisonous plants. The biological basis of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity.
- The role of plant primary and secondary metabolism in foods.
The rationale behind the presence of bioactive and aromatic molecules in plants. The biological basis beyond the most common strategies of food conservation and transformation. Ethnobotany of foods.
PH Raven, FE Ray, Biologia delle Piante, Ed. Zanichelli.
Assessment methods and criteria
The final exam will cover all the topics of the program; it will be preceded by a written entrance exam. The student will be asked to demonstrate its capability to use the basic concepts of each topic.