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Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology

  • The test consists of approximately 180 multiple-choice questions, a number of which are grouped in sets toward the end of the test and based on descriptions of laboratory situations, diagrams, or experimental results.

  • The content of the test is organized into three major areas: biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology and genetics. In addition to the total score, subscore in each of these subfield areas is reported. Because these three disciplines are basic to the study of all organisms, test questions encompass both eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

  • Throughout the test, there is an emphasis on questions requiring problem-solving skills (including mathematical calculations that do not require the use of a calculator) as well as content knowledge.

  • While only two content areas in the following outline specifically mention methodology, questions on methodology and data interpretation are included in all sections.

  • In developing questions for the test, the test development committee considers both the content of typical courses taken by undergraduates and the knowledge and abilities required for graduate work in the fields related to the test.

  • Because of the diversity of undergraduate curricula, few examinees will have encountered all of the topics in the content outline. Consequently, no examinee should expect to be able to answer all questions on the edition of the test he or she takes.

  • The three sub score areas are interrelated. Because of these interrelationships, individual questions or sets of questions may test more than one content area. Therefore, the relative emphases of the three areas in the following outline should not be considered definitive. Likewise, the topics listed are not intended to be all-inclusive but, rather, representative of the typical undergraduate experience.

I. Biochemistry - 36%

A. Chemical and Physical Foundations

Thermodynamics and kinetics
Redox states
Water, pH, acid-base reactions, and buffers
Solutions and equilibria
Solute-solvent interactions
Chemical interactions and bonding
Chemical reaction mechanisms

B. Biomolecules: Structure, Assembly, Organization, and Dynamics

Small molecules
Macromolecules (for example, nucleic acids, polysaccharides,
proteins, and complex Lipids)
Supramolecular complexes (for example, membranes,
ribosomes, and multienzyme complexes)

C. Catalysis and Binding

Enzyme reaction mechanisms and kinetics
Ligand-protein interaction (for example, hormone receptors,
substrates and effectors, transport proteins, and antigen-antibody interactions)

D. Major Metabolic Pathways

Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur assimilation
Synthesis and degradation of macromolecules

E. Bioenergetics (including respiration and photosynthesis)

Energy transformations at the substrate level
Electron transport
Proton and chemical gradients
Energy coupling (phosphorylation and transport)

F. Regulation and Integration of Metabolism

Covalent modification of enzymes
Allosteric regulation

G. Methodology

Separation techniques (for example, centrifugation, chromatography, and electrophoresis)

II. Cell Biology - 28%

A. Cellular Compartments of Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes: Organization, Dynamics, and Functions

Cellular membrane systems (structure and transport)
Nucleus (envelope and matrix)
Mitochondria and chloroplasts (including biogenesis and evolution)

B. Cell Surface and Communication

Extracellular matrix (including cell walls)
Cell adhesion and junctions
Signal transduction
Receptor function
Excitable membrane systems

C. Cytoskeleton, Motility, and Shape

Actin-based systems (including muscle contraction)
Microtubule-based systems
Intermediate filaments
Prokaryotic systems

D. Protein Synthesis and Processing

Regulation or translation
Posttranslational modification
Intracellular trafficking
Secretion and endocytosis

E. Cell Division, Differentiation, and Development

Bacterial division
Meiosis and gametogenesis
Eukaryotic cell cycles, mitosis, and cytokinesis
Fertilization and early embryonic development (including positional information, homeotic genes, tissue-specific expression, nuclear and cytoplasmic interactions, growth factors and induction, environment, and polarity)

III. Molecular Biology and Genetics - 36%

A. Genetic Foundations

Mendelian and non-Mendalian inheritance
Transformation, transduction, and conjugation
Recombination and complementation
Mutational analysis
Genetic mapping and linkage analysis

B. Chromatin and Chromosomes

Translocations, inversions, deletions, and duplications
Aneuploidy and polyploidy

C. Genomics

Genome structure
Physical mapping
Repeated DNA and gene families
Gene identification
Transposable elements

D. Genome Maintenance

DNA replication
DNA damage and repair
DNA modification
DNA recombination and gene conversion

E. Gene Expression

The genetic code
RNA processing

F. Gene Regulation in Prokaryotes

Positive and negative control of the operon
Promoter recognition by RNA polymerases
Attenuation and antitermination

G. Gene Regulation in Eukaryotes

Cis-acting regulatory elements
Trans-acting regulatory factors
Gene rearrangements and amplifications

H. Bacteriophages and Animal and Plant Viruses

Genome replication and regulation
Virus assembly
Virus-host interactions

I. Methodology

Restriction maps
Nucleic acid blotting and hybridization
DNA cloning in prokaryotes and eukaryotes
Sequencing and analysis
Protein-nucleic acid interaction

GRE Subject Test: Biology