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Proteins are an incredibly important part of any cell, and they carry out a number of functions such as support, storage and transport within the body. The monomers of proteins are called amino acids . An amino acid is an organic molecule that contains a carboxyl and an amino group, as well as a carbon side chain. The carbon side chain varies from one amino acid to the next, and is sometimes simply represented by the letter 'R' in a molecule's structural formula. [link] shows some examples of different amino acids.

Three amino acids: glycine, alanine and serine

Although each of these amino acids has the same basic structure, their side chains ('R' groups) are different. In the amino acid glycine, the side chain consists only of a hydrogen atom, while alanine has a methyl side chain. The 'R' group in serine is CH 2 - OH. Amongst other things, the side chains affect whether the amino acid is hydrophilic (attracted to water) or hydrophobic (repelled by water). If the side chain is polar , then the amino acid is hydrophilic, but if the side chain is non-polar then the amino acid is hydrophobic. Glycine and alanine both have non-polar side chains, while serine has a polar side chain.

Charged regions in an amino acid

In an amino acid, the amino group acts as a base because the nitrogen atom has a pair of unpaired electrons which it can use to bond to a hydrogen ion. The amino group therefore attracts the hydrogen ion from the carboxyl group, and ends up having a charge of +1. The carboxyl group from which the hydrogen ion has been taken then has a charge of -1. The amino acid glycine can therefore also be represented as shown in the figure below.

When two amino acid monomers are close together, they may be joined to each other by peptide bonds ( [link] ) to form a polypeptide chain. . The reaction is a condensation reaction. Polypeptides can vary in length from a few amino acids to a thousand or more. The polpeptide chains are then joined to each other in different ways to form a protein . It is the sequence of the amino acids in the polymer that gives a protein its particular properties.

The sequence of the amino acids in the chain is known as the protein's primary structure . As the chain grows in size, it begins to twist, curl and fold upon itself. The different parts of the polypeptide are held together by hydrogen bonds, which form between hydrogen atoms in one part of the chain and oxygen or nitrogen atoms in another part of the chain. This is known as the secondary structure of the protein. Sometimes, in this coiled helical structure, bonds may form between the side chains (R groups) of the amino acids. This results in even more irregular contortions of the protein. This is called the tertiary structure of the protein.

Two amino acids (glycine and alanine) combine to form part of a polypeptide chain. The amino acids are joined by a peptide bond between a carbon atom of one amino acid and a nitrogen atom of the other amino acid.

Interesting fact

There are twenty different amino acids that exist in nature. All cells, both plant and animal, build their proteins from only twenty amino acids. At first, this seems like a very small number, especially considering the huge number of different proteins that exist. However, if you consider that most proteins are made up of polypeptide chains that contain at least 100 amino acids, you will start to realise the endless possible combinations of amino acids that are available.

Questions & Answers

Is the normal force always 0
Mpilo Reply
define the term rate of reaction in word
David Reply
I think it a chemical process in which substance act mutually on each other.
how many bones are in the human body?
what is wave lengh
mama Reply
is the de broglie wavelength of the particle
calcium and magnesium, which one can displace aluminum from its compound?
Markia Reply
how is aluminum ion formed?
molecules with the same molecular formula but different chain
Malaza Reply
what will be the answer
chain isomer
what does the newton's law says?
there are 3 newtons laws which are newton's law of universal gravitation, law of cooling, law of motion
Did the feather or leaf hit the ground first?
Shaloom Reply
2 to 30 minut long distance race 20 km what's the avarage speed for the race
Jamilla Reply
what is meaning of covalent bonds
Lungani Reply
bonds that exists between non metal atoms. each atom contribute electron(s) which will form a bond joining the two atoms. electrons in the bond now belongs to both atoms
how do we name haloalkanes
Thobeka Reply
how do we name haloalkanes
what are examples of haloalkanes
haloalkanes are compounds that consist of the halogen group chlorine bromine flourine and so on like 2-bromobutan
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Nwabisa Reply
what is chain Isomer?
Christian Reply
chain isomer ar compounds with the same molecular formular but different chain length
Where does the functional group of ketone in carbons belong
Keletso Reply
how can I find the structural formulae and IUPAC names of hexane?
Matshidiso Reply
@Matshidiso identify your compound which is an alkane..the general formula for alkane is CnH2n+2... hex-6 substitute n with 6 implying that you'll have 6 carbons and 14 Hydrogens then you can draw your structural formula *NB* every carbon has to have 4 bonds
what are disadvantages of primary cells and advantage of secondary cells?
Thabang Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Siyavula textbooks: grade 12 physical science. OpenStax CNX. Aug 03, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11244/1.2
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