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M. extorquens, Metabolic Superstar

This parody (written by Greg Crowther) is sung to the tune of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and featured in the movie Jesus Christ Superstar).


This song was written for the University of Washington Postdoctoral Association's 2005 research symposium. It was intended as a not-too-technical summary of a multi-tiered study of the ability of Methylobacterium extorquens AM1 to switch from succinate to methanol as its source of carbon and energy.

M. extorquens AM1 might be considered a metabolic superstar in that it is "popular" (frequently studied) and "versatile" (can grow on many different substrates) and has great "potential" (for making value-added chemicals from cheap substrates like methanol).


I don’t know how they do it –-
Switching fuels like a hybrid.
And when they change,
They really change.
If the levels of succinate
Start to fall,
They’ll shift to methanol...

Yes, now we have their genome,
But I don’t see what it tells us.
It’s the genes; it’s just the genes.
And the genes don’t change
When the fuels do,
So how do the cells respond?
We need more clues!

Measure pathway flux;
Measure RNA;
Check metabolites;
Do enzyme assays!
Hey, M. extorquens, soon we’ll know
What you’re all about...

Don’t you think it’s rather daunting?
All this work, all these data.
No other group would take this on.
So we’ll be first to get results
And get our grant renewed
When it’s reviewed.
They’ll think we’re shrewd...
Or else we’re screwed.