Issue 19 | January 2014

Seeds of the caster oil plant

Proteins

Proteins are polymers of amino acids, and they do all sorts of incredible things. They give structure to living things, carry messages and molecules around our bodies, support the immune system and catalyse chemical reactions, and they are used widely in industry and medicine too. In this issue, we explore proteins and discover how they are involved in all kinds of processes in humans and other organisms.

Download the PDF, browse through the individual articles, check out our multimedia content and consider our lesson ideas. We’ve also picked out content from other issues that we think is especially relevant.

Protein basics

Probing proteins infographic

A numerical look at all things protein

DNA to protein – transcription and translation

Explore how the DNA code is used to build protein molecules

Protrump cards

Collectable cards featuring proteins from albumin to trypsin

Structure and movement

Focus protein: Collagen

How collagen keeps animals in shape

Collagen images

Collagen accounts for around one-third of all protein in vertebrates. Explore this important protein in the image gallery

Muscles and tendons images

We’ve chosen seven images that put muscles and tendons under the microscope

Meaty issues

A look at different sources of protein in our diet

Important connections

Collagen mutations cause disorders

On the move

How proteins keep cells together

What’s your type?

Proteins can be separated into broad groups

Animation: Sliding filament theory

Watch or download our animation showing muscle contraction and the sliding filament theory

Transport

Focus protein: Haemoglobin

How haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body

Haemoglobin and blood images

In this image gallery, explore images relating to oxygen transport and blood clotting

Animation: Haemoglobin

Watch our animation showing how this globular protein works

Channelling failure

Why a protein problem causes cystic fibrosis

Building blood

Why we use synthetic blood

Solving structures

Why do scientists study proteins’ shapes?

Cellular signals

Why membrane receptors are important proteins

The biology behind cholera

A look at the science of the waterborne disease cholera

Defence and survival

Focus protein: Immunoglobulin

How immunoglobulins help target invaders

Immunoglobulin images

In this gallery you can explore antibodies and B cells, as well as some contemporary and historical images on vaccination and the work of Edward Jenner

Stemming the flow

Why proteins are vital for blood clotting

Part of the fold

Why correct protein folding is essential

Under attack

Why scientists work to counteract some proteins’ effects

Using antibodies

Exploring antibodies as medicine and in research

Freeze!

How proteins stop fish from freezing

Haemoglobin and blood images

In this image gallery, explore images relating to oxygen transport and blood clotting

Exploring antifreeze proteins

How do molecules help organisms survive in extremely low temperatures?

Exploring storage proteins

Why living things store amino acids for later use

Killer clots: warfarin and vitamin K

A look at the role of proteins in blood clotting

Venoms and the blood

Which haemotoxins are released by organisms to defend themselves against threats or to kill prey?

Venoms and the nervous system

Which neurotoxins are released by organisms to defend themselves against threats or to kill prey?

Signalling

Focus protein: Insulin

Find out how insulin regulates glucose in the blood

Insulin images

Some different ways of illustrating insulin, including pictures relating to the pancreas and diabetes

Switching signals

How kinase proteins control cell processes

Growing up

Why we all need growth hormone – but in the right amounts

Feeling stuffed

How hormones influence our eating

Man the pumps

How drugs can overcome mutations in proteins

Pass it on

How pheromones carry messages

History of insulin

The importance of the protein insulin and its role in diabetes

Proteins in the eye

The function of some of the proteins that allow you to see the world

Weird facts about protein receptors

Find out why mint tastes cold and chillies taste hot

Catalysis

Focus protein: ATP synthase

How ATP synthase captures energy for our cells

ATP synthase images

In this gallery we look at images related to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase, a nanoscale machine that is essential to life

Cunning catalysts

Enzymes are proteins, but need the right conditions to do their job

Life on the edge

‘Extremophiles’ – how organisms survive extreme conditions

Growing old too soon

How enzymes are involved in ageing

Break it down!

A look at proteins that dispose of proteins

Well digested

Why digestive enzymes can be useful

Investigating immobilised enzymes

Immobilised enzymes – find out what these catalysts are used for

Historical aspects

History of insulin

The importance of the protein insulin and its role in diabetes

The biology behind cholera

A look at the science of the waterborne disease cholera

Ethical questions

Video: Bugs or burgers?

Watch or download our video exploring edible protein

Meaty issues

A look at different sources of protein in our diet

Eating animals: a meaty problem?

Can we establish new directions for food policy based on sustainable development?

Real Voices interviews

Real Voices interview: Jack Andraka

Meet Jack, a high school student and scientist

Real Voices interview: Samantha Renke

Meet Samantha, an actress living with brittle bone syndrome

Real Voices interview: Hannah Powell

Meet Hannah, an Olympic weightlifter

Real Voices interview: Martin MacDonald

Meet Martin, a clinical performance nutritionist

Activities and lesson ideas

Lesson ideas for ‘Big Picture: Proteins’

Explore our ideas for using this issue in the classroom

Lesson ideas for ‘Eating animals: a meaty problem?’

Discuss this food policy issue from ‘Big Picture: Food and Diet’ in the classroom

Further resources and activities on proteins

The Wellcome Trust has funded many organisations to produce activities and resources to engage and educate young people on the topic of proteins

Fast Facts

Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.

Browse through all of our Fast Facts indexed by topic