Protein Function Follows Form: Two-Lesson Activity


Created by Moriah Beck, Masih Shokrani, Karen Koster, William Soto, David McDonald, and David Swanson for the National Academies Northstar Institute for Undergraduate Teaching in Biology, this activity spans 2-3 classes and uses lecture, clicker questions, jigsaws, and group discussions to teach the relationship between protein structure and function.

This multi-class lesson "aims to elucidate the relationship between structure and function of proteins. Proteins are introduced based on their amino acids sequence (primary structure), shape of backbone (secondary structure), folding and three dimensional shape (tertiary structure), and whether proteins contain any subunits (quaternary structure). Enzymes are proteins that catalyze various reactions. Allosteric regulation, binding of a regulatory molecule, on a site on the enzyme other than the active site, is one way enzyme activity is regulated. Allosteric regulation results in the activation or inhibition of enzyme activity. Structure and function relationship is also illustrated by depicting oxygen binding to hemoglobin molecule which correlates for hemoglobin structure and function. Change in hemoglobin primary sequence due to single point mutations is utilized to illustrate how change in the amino acid sequence will affect hemoglobin structure and function."  Students gain this knowledge by

  1. Predicting the magnitude of effect of specific amino acid changes on protein function
  2. Predicting how changes in cellular environment e.g. temperature, pH, binding interactions affect structure and function
  3. Collaborating with other students to solve problems
  4. Analyzing data about protein structure and function
  5. Modifying protein sequence / structure for specific function/enhancement
 (Text from the Yale Center for Scientific Teaching's Teachable Tidbits).
The lesson's sequence is as follows:

Section 1



Time (min)

Learning Outcome(s)




Understand different levels of protein structure to emphasize flexibility/dynamic  nature

Watch movie


Predict how changes in binding interactions affect structure and function

Mini-lecture on enzyme function, regulation, and allostery



Understand that binding of allosteric regulators can be both positive and negative

Formative assessment, clicker questions on allosteric regulation figure






Continue to probe understanding of allosteric regulation if need be


Read and understand scientific literature

Jigsaw reading assignment and guiding questions presented

2nd class session; 5 min

Collaborate with other students; interpret and predict data

Discuss group answers to reading assignment questions


Session 2

Time (min)

Learning Outcome



Hypothesis generation from geese flying over climber on Mt.Everest slide

Individual followed by group discussion of potential hypotheses explaining figures



Understand Hb functional properties and adaptive consequences


Mini-lecture: Hb function and regulation + Group discussion questions



Should be able to classify amino acids based on structural properties

Amino acid classification exercise




Predict how amino acid mutations will affect structure and function of Hb

Group activity: Hb structure/ function/mutations




Synthesis and prediction of how Hb structure and function will respond to hypoxia

Explanation of Summative Assessment Essay for homework

3rd Class Session

10-15 min

Discussion of Summative Assessment Essay

Clicker Questions or Group Discussion Questions


The powerpoint below corresponds to the laid out lesson sequence.
Handouts for the jigsaw and the lesson plan are attached.

This activity was contributed by Yale University.

presentation.pptx3.79 MB
framework.doc75 KB
handout.pptx1.17 MB