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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe how the body digests proteins
  • Explain how the urea cycle prevents toxic concentrations of nitrogen
  • Differentiate between glucogenic and ketogenic amino acids
  • Explain how protein can be used for energy

Much of the body is made of protein, and these proteins take on a myriad of forms. They represent cell signaling receptors, signaling molecules, structural members, enzymes, intracellular trafficking components, extracellular matrix scaffolds, ion pumps, ion channels, oxygen and CO 2 transporters (hemoglobin). That is not even the complete list! There is protein in bones (collagen), muscles, and tendons; the hemoglobin that transports oxygen; and enzymes that catalyze all biochemical reactions. Protein is also used for growth and repair. Amid all these necessary functions, proteins also hold the potential to serve as a metabolic fuel source. Proteins are not stored for later use, so excess proteins must be converted into glucose or triglycerides, and used to supply energy or build energy reserves. Although the body can synthesize proteins from amino acids, food is an important source of those amino acids, especially because humans cannot synthesize all of the 20 amino acids used to build proteins.

The digestion of proteins begins in the stomach. When protein-rich foods enter the stomach, they are greeted by a mixture of the enzyme pepsin    and hydrochloric acid (HCl; 0.5 percent). The latter produces an environmental pH of 1.5–3.5 that denatures proteins within food. Pepsin cuts proteins into smaller polypeptides and their constituent amino acids. When the food-gastric juice mixture (chyme) enters the small intestine, the pancreas releases sodium bicarbonate    to neutralize the HCl. This helps to protect the lining of the intestine. The small intestine also releases digestive hormones, including secretin    and CCK, which stimulate digestive processes to break down the proteins further. Secretin also stimulates the pancreas to release sodium bicarbonate. The pancreas releases most of the digestive enzymes, including the proteases trypsin, chymotrypsin, and elastase    , which aid protein digestion. Together, all of these enzymes break complex proteins into smaller individual amino acids ( [link] ), which are then transported across the intestinal mucosa to be used to create new proteins, or to be converted into fats or acetyl CoA and used in the Krebs cycle.

Digestive enzymes and hormones

The left panel shows the main organs of the digestive system, and the right panel shows a magnified view of the intestine. Text callouts indicate the different protein digesting enzymes produced in different organs.
Enzymes in the stomach and small intestine break down proteins into amino acids. HCl in the stomach aids in proteolysis, and hormones secreted by intestinal cells direct the digestive processes.

In order to avoid breaking down the proteins that make up the pancreas and small intestine, pancreatic enzymes are released as inactive proenzymes    that are only activated in the small intestine. In the pancreas, vesicles store trypsin    and chymotrypsin    as trypsinogen    and chymotrypsinogen    . Once released into the small intestine, an enzyme found in the wall of the small intestine, called enterokinase    , binds to trypsinogen and converts it into its active form, trypsin. Trypsin then binds to chymotrypsinogen to convert it into the active chymotrypsin. Trypsin and chymotrypsin break down large proteins into smaller peptides, a process called proteolysis    . These smaller peptides are catabolized into their constituent amino acids, which are transported across the apical surface of the intestinal mucosa in a process that is mediated by sodium-amino acid transporters. These transporters bind sodium and then bind the amino acid to transport it across the membrane. At the basal surface of the mucosal cells, the sodium and amino acid are released. The sodium can be reused in the transporter, whereas the amino acids are transferred into the bloodstream to be transported to the liver and cells throughout the body for protein synthesis.

Questions & Answers

explain respiratory centers
Tharshana Reply
which enzyme help in excretion of bile
Sakshi Reply
how conversion of Beta-carotiene into vitamin-A takes place
best reference books for anatomy pls suggest that
what is gross anatomy
Saroj Reply
The study of large structure of the body
what is scrotum
Dakshit Reply
a bag of skin near the penis which contains the testicles
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Why are you on my digits
how does it work?
Uriah Reply
I want to know the fertilization process in human
Nana Reply
Which plane divides the body into right and left parts
sagittal plane
Thank you
Homestatic regulations usually involves a (n) _ that detects a particular stimulus, and a(n) _that respond to the stimulus by communicating with a (n) _whose activity has an effect on the same stimulus.
A cell is producing proteins to be transported out of that cell. They will be processed on ribosomes that are
what are diseases in the bood
Azoyenime Reply
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Ganesh Reply
Diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitus would most likely be indicated by ________.
oral cavity how miean
Ganesh Reply
oral cavity how mean what
seems to me every one is here a doctor and worse part is that even they donot know what to ask.
they know what to ask the problem is how to ask it.too much broken english.
dear George ongeche I think if they ask these kind questions and telling themselves as HCPs or medical student's .these are the basic ones go ask something more interesting .
what is blood red
Ahmad Reply
what is human anatomy?
Arpita Reply
tell me what is human anatomy?
what is Openstax?
arpita jana I think it's not the forum to ask such basic question...
study of structure of an object in this case human body.
what are deferent between trasemicacid and vitamin k
Ubah Reply
This medication is used to treat heavy bleeding during your menstrual period. Tranexamic acid works by slowing the breakdown of blood clots, which helps to prevent prolonged bleeding. It belongs to a class of drugs known as antifibrinolytics
In the body, vitamin K plays a major role in blood clotting. So it is used to reverse the effects of “blood thinning” medications when too much is given; to prevent clotting problems in newborns who don’t have enough vitamin K; and to treat bleeding caused by medications including salicylates, sulfo
Vitamin K plays a key role in helping the blood clot, preventing excessive bleeding. Unlike many other vitamins, vitamin K is not typically used as a dietary supplement. Vitamin K is actually a group of compounds. The most important of these compounds appears to be vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. Vitami
how much tha total vertebrea bone
26 vertebrea bone
wathe is blood function
dhena Reply
Blood, fluid that transports oxygen and nutrients to the cells and carries away carbon dioxide and other waste products. ... It is a tissue because it is a collection of similar specialized cells that serve particular functions. These cells are suspended in a liquid matrix (plasma), which makes the 
how tissue carries waste matrial
how many bone in human body?
Islam Reply
what is endocrin? plese help many people.
heart layers
endoceime is the inner layer of heart
What is buffer?
Peer Reply
a buffer is a solution that resists a chemical change.
Yup it also balances the solutions

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