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Leaving For The Membrane

This parody (written by Greg Crowther) is sung to the tune of "Leaving On A Jet Plane" (written and performed by John Denver).


Context

In this song, a protein wistfully summarizes his journey: synthesis at the rough ER, addition of sugar groups in the ER lumen, transfer to the Golgi, further modification of carbohydrate groups there, and ultimate export to the cell membrane.


Lyrics

Well, the stop codon is here at last;
My beta sheets are folding fast,
And cotranslational transport has begun.
My signal peptide targets me
For binding by the SRP --
My time here at this ribosome is done...

So modify my residues --
Decorate with sugar groups --
Then pack me into vesicles to go...

I'm leaving for the membrane.
Don't think that I'll be back again --
This cell is not my home.

Now, vesicles from the ER wall
Will take me through the cytosol
To the Golgi apparatus, cis through trans.
At the Golgi, enzymes wait inside
To tweak my oligosaccharides,
As with the ABO blood antigens...

So modify my residues --
Decorate with sugar groups --
Then pack me into vesicles to go...

I'm leaving for the membrane.
Don't think that I'll be back again --
This cell is not my home.

I'm leaving for the membrane.
Don't think that I'll be back again --
This cell is not my home.
This cell is not my home.


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 an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity could 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) What is the stop codon mentioned in the first verse?

(2) What are the beta sheets mentioned in the first verse?

(3) What is the SRP mentioned in the first verse?

(4) In the context of this song, what are residues?

(5) What determines a person's blood type to be A, B, AB, or O?

(6) Cells have many (external and internal) membranes. To which one does the title seem to refer?

(7) How do the terms "cis" and "trans" apply to the Golgi apparatus?

(8) Whom do you think is narrating this song? Could it be an ion channel? An extracellular structural protein such as collagen? An extracellular enzyme such as amylase? A hormone such as TSH?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)