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A Botched Botox Party in the Hamptons


Adam J. Kleinschmit
Department of Natural and Applied Sciences
University of Dubuque


This flipped case study explores how the topics of membrane structure, transport, and signaling via membrane-bound receptors are intimately associated with the paralysis of muscle targeted by botulinum neurotoxin. The case scenario revolves around a fictitious socialite that has requested the assistance of her personal concierge physician with a condition that has developed after having participated in a Hamptons Botox party. The physician and a shadowing pre-med undergraduate chat about the molecular mechanisms behind Botox induced muscle paralysis. The case is designed as an engaging capstone exercise for students to gain appreciation for how knowledge of basic cellular and molecular biology mechanisms are essential for pharmaceutical development and medical patient diagnosis and prognosis. Written for an undergraduate general biology course, the case is also suitable for use in courses such as cellular biology, neurobiology, or human physiology.


  • Describe the molecular mechanisms of endocytosis and exocytosis and connect them to examples in the biological world.
  • Apply knowledge of channel proteins and membrane receptors to explain how the chemical signal of a neurotransmitter can be converted into an electrical signal through ligand-gated ion channel receptors.
  • Describe how a neurotransmitter (signal) can elicit different cellular effects depending on the cell type it stimulates.
  • Connect primary and secondary active transport by describing how neurotransmitter reuptake mechanisms utilize symporters, while Na+/K+ pumps are essential for helping set up a membrane potential for this to occur.
  • Discuss how changes in membrane structure can influence protein conformation and function.
  • Explain differences in diffusion behavior of protonated and unprotonated forms of lidocaine in regards to the structural properties of membranes.


botox; botulinum neurotoxin; cell membrane; phospholipid bilayer; receptors; endocytosis; phagocytosis; exocytosis; membrane transport; membrane structure; action potential; sodium-potassium pump; ion channel; clathrin; neurotransmitter;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods

Flipped, Interrupted, Jig-Saw



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Physiology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Neuroscience  |   Science (General)  |   Toxicology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Bulk Membrane Transport and Botox
    This video provides a brief overview of Botox and its societal use. The video also provides a basic overview of endocytosis and exocytosis, which is relevant background information students need in order to explore the molecular mechanisms of Botox highlighted in the case study. Running time: 5:42 min. Created by Adam Kleinschmit for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2016.
  • Botox: Before and After
    A before-and-after video of an individual who has received Botox for cosmetic purposes. Running time: 6:19 min. Created by Janet D’Oliveira, 2014.
  • The Mechanism of Action of Botulinum Toxin
    Video of the molecular mechanism of botulinum neurotoxin; start at 0:01 and end at 2:40 min. Running time: 10:52. Created by Southern California Movement Disorder Specialists (SoCalMDS), 2011.
  • Clathrin-Mediated Endocytosis
    Animation of clathrin-coated vesicle formation; start at 2:22 and end at 4:15 min. Running time: 4:16 min. Created by Janet Iwasa, 2012.