Customize Your Auto Like Proteins Are Customized in the Cell

Written by Dave Sheldon, St. Clair County Community College

When discussing the function of the Golgi apparatus, I ask my students to picture a friend, two identical automobiles and an automotive customization shop. I ask them if they and their friend purchased 2 identical cars (same color, make model etc.), would it be possible to customize or detail them in a way that would result in two totally different appearing and performing cars? The answer always comes back “yes” and we discuss ways to modify an automobile. Ground effects, spoilers, window tinting, sound systems, paint jobs and fancy rims are usually mentioned. The car in this analogy represents a newly formed protein that has just been sent via a transport vesicle from the rough endoplasmic reticulum (auto dealership) to the Golgi apparatus (detailing shop). They imaginary car pulls into the receiving or Cis side of the shop and leaves via the shipping or Trans side of the shop. While in the Golgi detailing shop, the modifications represent chemical reactions such as phosphorylation, glycosolation and manipulation of the size of the polypeptide chain.

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