miscellaneous slide











Ion Channels

by Greg Crowther


Ion channels are membrane proteins through which ions (charged particles like Cl-, K+, and Na+) can pass, thus changing the membrane potential (the difference in electrical charge between the inside and outside of the membrane). This song was originally written for Biology 351 at UW-Bothell.


Voltage-gated! Ligand-gated!
They're found on different coasts:
Some pre-synapse, some post-!
Voltage-gated! Ligand-gated!
Most neurons get their spikes
From these two channel types!

Cells are full of ions that will exit and will enter;
Ions pass through channels that will open in the center.
Some require a certain membrane voltage to serve as a trigger;
Some require binding of a ligand, like a neurotransmitter.


Other Files

MP3 (demo)

sheet music

Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using the audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity should begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Study Questions

(1) "Spike" is sort of a slang term for an action potential. Which type of ion channel is most directly responsible for spikes? Does the other type of channel also contribute somehow to the generation of spikes?

(2) Which type of ion channel is mainly pre-synaptic, and which type is mainly post-synaptic?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)