Protein targeting

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Developed by: Donna Koslowsky, in collaboration with participants at the 2011 WVU Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Science and Math.



Cells and Organelles: Protein Targeting

Campbell's Biology, 9 ed. Chapter 6

Introduction to cellular structure and function. This activity has been used effectively after a general introduction to Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and eukaryotic organelles. 

This is the introduction of using Flow charts to determine the fate of proteins that must be delivered to a specific region/organelle.  Can be Linked to ABO activity, where the students are asked to build their own Flow Chart on how ABO antigens found on Plasma membrane proteins, are delivered to the plasma membrane.


Connection to Vision and Change*

Core Concepts

2.  Structure and Function

Basic units of structure define the function of all living things.  Signal peptides and Signal tags as recognition units that can deliver proteins to specific compartments.

3. Information flow, exchange and storage 

Information stored within the proteins allows them to be delivered to the proper compartment for optimal function.  The utilization of biological information.

Core Competencies and Disciplinary Practice


Biology focuses on the study of complex systems.

Development of problem-solving strategies.  Reading Flow Charts, critical thinking.

*Vision and Change: A Call to Action. Washington, DC: AAAS; 2010.


Learning Objectives:            

1.  Recognize and Describe function of organelles (ER and Golgi). 

2.  Describe how the endomembrane system regulates protein traffic and performs metabolic functions in the cell.

2.  Explain the advantages of compartmentalization (having organelles).

3.  Explain how the different organelles accumulate different proteins and other macromolecules allowing for different functions. 



At the beginning of class, students are given a flow chart that maps the movement of proteins within a eukaryotic cell dependent on the type of signals that the protein carries. They are also presented with a mini-lecture given on key aspects of the endomembrane system, protein targeting and the function of the lysosome.  In addition, they are presented with a genetic disease that results from the disruption of a specific protein targeting pathway.  At the end of the mini-lecture, students identify the relative components of the protein targeting flowchart using clicker questions.  Finally, they are asked to predict how mutations (functional changes) might impact protein targeting.

Associated Questions

Flowchart for student handout90.23 KB
Protein targeting problem slides and clicker questions2.12 MB

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.