Further Membrane Structure

Membrane Proteins and the Phospholipid bilayer

In this activity students see for themselves the wonderful interactions which occur inside cells and between cells using a short animation from Harvard university. The roles of some membrane proteins are clarified as well as the function of cholesterol in the cell membrane.

Lesson Description

Guiding Questions

What do proteins in the membrane do?

How many different types of membrane protein are there?

Activity 1 - Research activity on membrane proteins

Look at the web page on membrane proteins below. All instances of the word "Protein" have been highlighted. Make a note of all the different functions of protein on this page and for each one write a little explanation.

Activity 2 - Visualizations of proteins inside the plasma membrane

Students watch the following video about the functions of cell proteins. There are many long scientific terms which IB students don't need to know, but the following protein functions mentioned in the video should be known.

  • Receptors
  • Attachment sites
  • Enzymes
  • Signaling and communication

Harvard University selected XVIVO to develop an animation to take their cellular biology students on a journey through the microscopic world of a cell, illustrating mechanisms that allow a white blood cell to sense its surroundings and respond to an external stimulus. This was the first in a series of animations created for Harvard's educational website BioVisions.

Watch the   Amazing 3D animation of proteins inside the cell and in the membrane (Inner life of the Cell)
showing a white blood cell inside a blood vessel.

Answer the questions on the Membrane video student worksheet .

Teachers notes

The first activity is intended as an introduction and students would benefit greatly from another source of information about membrane proteins, their position and variety, e.g. an IB Biology text book.

The second activity is quite a challenging video with many long protein names which don't help students confidence. However the worksheet has some clear questions which helps students to extract the essential information from this excellent video from Harvard university without taking away the wonderful 3D visualisations of cell organelles and the many functions of proteins.

Answers to the questions can be found on this page: Answers to the membrane protein video questions

If you are looking for something a little simpler,

There is a nice   Summary animation about membranes from TedEd

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