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Folding patterns resulting from interactions between the non-R group portions of amino acids give rise to the secondary structure of the protein. The most common are the alpha (α)-helix and beta (β)-pleated sheet structures. Both structures are held in shape by hydrogen bonds. In the alpha helix, the bonds form between every fourth amino acid and cause a twist in the amino acid chain.

In the β-pleated sheet, the “pleats” are formed by hydrogen bonding between atoms on the backbone of the polypeptide chain. The R groups are attached to the carbons, and extend above and below the folds of the pleat. The pleated segments align parallel to each other, and hydrogen bonds form between the same pairs of atoms on each of the aligned amino acids. The α-helix and β-pleated sheet structures are found in many globular and fibrous proteins.

The unique three-dimensional structure of a polypeptide is known as its tertiary structure. This structure is caused by chemical interactions between various amino acids and regions of the polypeptide. Primarily, the interactions among R groups create the complex three-dimensional tertiary structure of a protein. There may be ionic bonds formed between R groups on different amino acids, or hydrogen bonding beyond that involved in the secondary structure. When protein folding takes place, the hydrophobic R groups of nonpolar amino acids lay in the interior of the protein, whereas the hydrophilic R groups lay on the outside. The former types of interactions are also known as hydrophobic interactions.

In nature, some proteins are formed from several polypeptides, also known as subunits, and the interaction of these subunits forms the quaternary structure. Weak interactions between the subunits help to stabilize the overall structure. For example, hemoglobin is a combination of four polypeptide subunits.

Four types of protein structure
The four levels of protein structure can be observed in these illustrations. (credit: modification of work by National Human Genome Research Institute)

Each protein has its own unique sequence and shape held together by chemical interactions. If the protein is subject to changes in temperature, pH, or exposure to chemicals, the protein structure may change, losing its shape in what is known as denaturation. Denaturation is often reversible because the primary structure is preserved if the denaturing agent is removed, allowing the protein to resume its function. Sometimes denaturation is irreversible, leading to a loss of function. One example of protein denaturation can be seen when an egg is fried or boiled. The albumin protein in the liquid egg white is denatured when placed in a hot pan, changing from a clear substance to an opaque white substance. Not all proteins are denatured at high temperatures; for instance, bacteria that survive in hot springs have proteins that are adapted to function at those temperatures.

Concept in action

For an additional perspective on proteins, explore “Biomolecules: The Proteins” through this interactive animation .

Questions & Answers

information for blood vessels
Sumit Reply
helps pump blood through body
scott
arteries carry blood away from the heart while veins return it to the heart
Reverian
veins have thinner outer walls because blood pressure in them is very low compared to arteries with thicker outer walls to withstand the higher blood pressure.
Oliver
cell, tissue, organ, organism, organ system,
Gheida Reply
please what are the characteristics of a good respiratory system?
Salomon Reply
thin wall ,a moist inner surface ,a huge combined surface area and a rich blood supply.
Nchimunya
Help me am confused what is the cell membrane as a partially permeable membrane
Janelle Reply
it is the ability of a molecules to cross a cell membrane depending on their both size and chemical properties.
Andrews
Based on my previous understanding of biological systems, a cell membrane is a semi-permeable membrane made up of a phospholipids bi-layer. The polar head consisting of phosphate and the hydrophobic end made up of lipids.
Abayomi
Smallest bone of rabbit is
Sahrukh Reply
difference between catebolism and anebolism
Anthvanath Reply
identify the causes of infertility in human beings
Rodrick Reply
Describe how a healthy pregnancy could be maintained
Rodrick
Huaman largest bone
Sahrukh
How I can test DNY
Salamin Reply
Samllest bone
Sahrukh
How can I determine my child
AlfredOfficial Reply
by DNA tests
lasford
thanks
AlfredOfficial
How to test
Salamin
How many bones of 1 year childrean
R.k Reply
208
Rani
A baby's body has about 300 bones at birth. These eventually fuse (grow together) to form the 206 bones that adults
Manali
Somebudy seys me 300
R.k
A baby's body has about 300 bones at birth. These eventually fuse (grow together) to form the 206 bones that adults h
Manali
I ask you about beby bones
R.k
i cann't say about 1 year baby's bones bt on birth baby has 300 bones
Manali
Ok thank you goodnight
R.k
good night
Manali
have a sweat dream
Rani
it's 300 bones because it a baby
Jasper
babies have 300 bones in which it fuses to become 206 as an adult.
Andrews
it has 300 bones ,nchimunya
Nchimunya
figure of male reproduction
Rani Reply
front view of male reproductive system
Rani
front view of male reproductive system
Rani
what is Actin? I don't understand this definition
Rhonda Reply
Actin is a family of globular multi-functional proteins that form microfilaments. 
Lauren
difference between throat and lyrnx
Lone
what is the difference between a vaccine and a antiserum
Silver Reply
An antiserum contains antibodies already produced and is used to pass on immune responses. A vaccine contains a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies to create an immune response.
Nana
A vaccine a preparation of antigens for one (or more) diseases that is given to stimulate active immunity and protect against the disease (s). while an antiserum either neutralizes the "infection " or stimulates your immune system to attack an infection.
Oliver
what is deoxyribonucleic acid
Carlene Reply
A negatively charged molecule; polymer of nucleotides found in the nucleus of a cell ... DNA.
Abayomi
guys u needs your help i am in this conversation but i don't understand what you guys were talking about please i need your help.
Asali
Hi
Janelle
hi
Oliver
hello
Rani
how are you doing?
Jasper
DNA is genetic material which is present in cell DNA is made up of nitrogen base,phosphate group and pentose sugar.
Manali
hi
Jasper
give a front view of male reproductive system
Rani
to maintain certain biological activities of cell
jeeni Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Human biology. OpenStax CNX. Dec 01, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11903/1.3
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