Monthly Archives: April 2013

Protein Symphony!


music_by_dante_mk  Amazing artwork by:(

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.

-Bob Marley

This is one of my most favourite quotes. Music is an important part of my life. Even though I may not be musically talented per say (does singing in the shower count?), I enjoy listening to it daily as it helps me forget about life’s problems instantly. For those few minutes I’m in a zone where nothing else matters except how the music makes me feel in that moment; be it happy, sad, calm you name it, music can take you on an emotional roller-coaster.

So when I read an article talking about assigning musical notes to each amino acid in different proteins to create a melody I was beyond thrilled!

This has been an ongoing project by Rie Takahashi and Jeffrey Miller, colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles, in which their aim is to “musicalise” the amino acid sequences in various proteins. Although this idea has been thought of before, Takahashi and Miller have found a way to make the tunes richer and more rhythmic compared to earlier efforts that resulted in jumpy notes.


Rie Takahashi


Jeffrey H. Miller

So, how is this done?

It’s really simple actually. Each of the 20 amino acids is allocated a specific musical note, be it middle C or D sharp, until each one has their own note. Then a protein is chosen and a musical score is made just by transcribing the amino acids of the protein’s sequence into musical notes.

protein music2

Remember I told you that previous attempts at making “musical proteins” failed because of notes “jumpy notes”? This was because sometimes notes would leap 20 notes at a time, thus making it hard/ unmelodious to the ear. But Takahashi and Miller overcame this obstacle by giving each amino acid not just one note but three notes, also called a triad chord. These triad chords were played successively and the harmonies were easier on the ears and just overall nicer to listen to. They did cheat a little bit though because they made minor changes to the chords already used in the first 13 amino acids and then gave them to the remaining 7, but it was all to make the highest tunes more favourable.

They also discovered a way to put in timings to each triad so rhythm could be introduced into the music.  By using the changes in the codon (triplets of DNA bases in the gene) frequencies, they allotted time values to the chords for each of the amino acids in the protein sequence.  Since an amino acid can have up to 4 different codons, the more common the codon is in the DNA, the longer the time value it has. That means the longest note in the melody would have a semibreve enduring 4 beats! Cool right?

protein music

I’m sure you just want to hear what it sounds like by now, so listen here!! On their website, they have numerous other creations here. Even though it’s not Beethoven, I still think it’s an ingenious idea and I’m excited to see and hear what becomes of this as Takahashi would like to add other instruments to the protein music as well!

Other vids can be found on Youtube as well showing how others convert each amino acid sequence of different proteins into music 🙂

Article Reference:  Coghlan, Andy. 2007. “Music made to measure from nature’s proteins” Accessed April 6, 2013.



Krebs in the Army?



This is Krebs. Sir Hans Adolf Krebs to be precise. Who is he you may ask?

Sir Hans Adolf Krebs was a German-born British physician and biochemist. Krebs is well known for his Nobel Prize winning research in the citric acid cycle or what we usually call it, the TCA cycle/ Krebs cycle.


images (1)

The Krebs cycle is a series of metabolic chemical reactions used not only by us, but also by all aerobic organisms, to produce energy through the oxidization of acetate into carbon dioxide.


Yeah, you may have heard of him before but I bet you didn’t know this about him.

Krebs was Jewish and he joined the German army in 1932, and was also appointed to the 13th Mechanized Infantry Division. You’re probably confused. How could a Jew be a part of the German army at that time? Well the Nazi party was not in power as yet so German Jews were welcome in the German army.



Afterwards, Krebs returned to clinical medicine at the hospital of Altona and then at the medical clinic of the University of Freiburg, where he conducted studies and discovered the urea cycle. Yup, the Krebs cycle wasn’t the only cycle he discovered!


Unfortunately, because he was Jewish, he was prohibited from practicing medicine in Germany when the Nazis took power, and he emigrated to England in 1933.  He then worked in the biochemistry department under Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins in Cambridge. So… the guy who discovered the essential amino acid Tryptophan and the guy who discovered the TCA cycle were buddies! Two great minds working together for the love of biochemistry! I love it! 🙂