Note (12/2015): Hi there! I'm taking some time off here to focus on other projects for a bit. As of October 2016, those other projects include a science book series for kids titled Things That Make You Go Yuck! -- available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and (hopefully) a bookstore near you!

Co-author Jenn Dlugos and I are also doing some extremely ridiculous things over at Drinkstorm Studios, including our award-winning webseries, Magicland.

There are also a full 100 posts right here in the archives, and feel free to drop me a line at with comments, suggestions or wacky cold fusion ideas. Cheers!

· Categories: Biology
What I’ve Learned:

Golgi body at the beach?
“Golgi bodies: for when it absolutely, positively has to be there before mitosis.”

For years, I thought “Golgi bodies” was a term for those big hairy European guys who wear Speedos at the beach. Luckily, I was mistaken.

Also luckily, I don’t own a pair of Speedos.

It turns out the Golgi body — or “Golgi apparatus”, if you prefer scientific terms that sound like they came from a Turkish ninth grade sex ed film — is a structure inside our cells. All of our cells, in fact. Even the ones that won’t stuff neatly into a swimsuit.

It doesn’t look like much, the Golgi body. More than anything, it resembles a squished stack of floppy pancakes, surrounded by various lumps and blobs and protrusions.

In other words, a lot like those cells that won’t stuff neatly into a swimsuit. Which is why you should never dress your Golgis in Speedos at the beach, either.

Your average cell biology snoozefest textbook will compare the Golgi body to a post office, because it packages and transports proteins around the cell. Being compared to the postal service seems unfair to me. It suggests Golgi bodies are obsolete, inefficient, hemorrhage money and wear short pants to work in the summer.

Worse, in ten years no kid in freshman bio class will know what the hell a “post office” was, anyway. They’ll all be shuttered by then and converted to loft apartments or teleport stations or monuments for the victims of postal worker violence during the Great Priority Mail Massacre of 2022.

I prefer to think of Golgi bodies as the Amazon fulfillment centers of the cell. Now there’s an analogy you can burn into textbooks for the next four thousand years. But it works. Merchandise flows in from third-party “vendors” like the endoplasmic reticulum. Or Hello Kitty. Or Charmin. But for Golgi bodies, mostly the reticulum one.

The Golgi then fiddles with the goods it gets. It might slap on a phosphate or the odd polysaccharide. It finds the right-sized box for each little peptide. Presumably, it marks everything up by twenty percent, because hey — the Golgi’s got to make a buck here, too. And then it ships everything off in little packages called “vesicles”, which presumably have little swooshes on the side and arrive in teeny tiny FedEx trucks.

And so, the extracellular matrix gets that proteoglycan from its wish list. The lysosome has to sign the back of the slip because she was in the shower during the first delivery attempt. And the outer cell membrane gets a long steady stream of packages, because he gets bored way out there in the boonies and orders a lot of crap online.

On the bright side, the cell membrane did sign up for Golgi Prime, so shipping is covered. And he can watch the first four episodes of Downton Abbey for free, so there’s that. If he could just convince the delivery guy to wear something over his Speedo, the whole cell would be living the dream.

Actual Science:
ScitableHow do proteins move through the Golgi apparatus?
Encyclopedia BritannicaGolgi apparatus

Image sources: Jeff Beck/Collin Community College (Golgi body), Music Snobbery (Speedo), Encyclopedia Brittanica and TNW (Amazon Golgi)

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