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Amino Acid: Describe The Structure Types and Characteristics Of Amino Acids?

Referencing Styles : APA | Pages : 2

Amino Acid

Amino acids are organic compounds consisting of amine and carboxyl functional groups along with a side chain which is specific to each amino acid. The key elements related to an amino acid are Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. However, some other elements are found in the side chains of certain kinds of amino acids. About 500 naturally occurring amino acids are known and can be classified in a variety of ways. They can be classified in accordance with the core structural functional group locations such as that of alpha, beta, gamma or delta amino acids. The other categories relate to the polarity, pH level and the side chain group type. In the form of protein, amino acid residues form the second largest component of the human muscles and other form of tissues. Beyond the role of acting as residues in proteins, amino acids participate in a variety of processes such as that of neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.

Structure of amino acids

Within the structure of an amino acid, R represents a side chain which is specific to each of the amino acid. The carbon atom which is next to the carboxyl group is referred to as the alpha carbon. Amino acids which contains an amino group bonded directly to the alpha carbon are referred to as the alpha amino acids. These contain the inclusion of amino acids such as that of proline which contains amines of the secondary group commonly referred to as the imino acids.

Isomerism- the alpha amino acids are the most common of the form which is found in nature, but only when they have their occurrence in the L-isomer. The alpha carbon is called as the chiral carbon atom, with the exception of glycine which contains two indistinguishable hydrogen atoms on the alpha carbon. Therefore, all the alpha amino acids keeping glycine as an exception can have its existence in either of the two enantiomers, referred commonly as the L or D amino acids which are exactly the mirror images of each other. While the L amino acids represent all of the amino acids found in proteins during the translation in ribosome, the D amino acids on the other hand are found in some of the proteins which are produced by the enzyme posttranslational modifications after the translation and the translocation to the endoplasmic reticulum as in the exotic sea-dwelling organisms such as that of cone snails.

Side chains- within the amino acids, there is the presence of a carbon chain which is attached to the α-carbon, where the carbons are labelled as α, β, γ, δ and so on. In some of the amino acids, the amine group is attached to the β or the γ-carbon and these are hence, referred to as the beta or gamma amino acids. Amino acids are usually distinguished by the properties of their side chain into four different groups. The side chain can make an amino acid a weak acid or a weak base, and also a hydrophile if the side chain is polar and also a hydrophone is the side chain is non-polar.  The structures which are related to chemistry are of 22 standard amino acids, along with their chemical properties.

Zwitterions- the α-carboxylic acid group of amino acids is a weak acid which carries a meaning that it releases a hydron at a moderate level of pH values. In other words, carboxylic acid groups can be deprotonated to take the form of negatively charged carboxylates. The negatively charged carboxylate ion predominates at pH values greater than the pKa of the carboxylic acid group. In a better vision, the α-amine of the amino acids is a weak base, which means that it accepts at the moderate pH values. In other words, the α-amino groups can be protonated to become positively charged α-ammonium groups. The positively charged α-ammonium group predominates at pH value less than that of pKa of the α-ammonium group. Since, all the amino acids contain amine and carboxylic functional groups, they share amphiprotic properties.

Isoelectric point- the variation in titration curves when the amino acids can be grouped by category. With the exception of the tyrosine, using the titration to distinguish among the hydrophobic amino acids is problematic. At the pH values between the two pKa values, the zwitterion predominates, but also coexists in the dynamic equilibrium with lesser amounts of net negative and net ions carrying positive values. At exactly the midpoint between the two pKa values, the trace  amount of the net negative and the trace amount of the net positive ions share an exact balance, so that the average net charge of all forms which are present equal to zero.

Types of amino acids

There exists twenty kinds of amino acids that provide the support to the body where each of them carry their own function. The body consists of more than a hundred thousand kinds of proteins, among which 20 amino acids form a constituent part of them in different combinations with each other. Each of these twenty amino acids carry the essentiality for the body. Apart from being materials to the proteins, these amino acids are also used to provide energy to the body whenever the body is in need for energy. Apart from providing energy to the body, each of the amino acid plays a very important role within the body which is unique for each of the amino acids. The amino acids with their specific functions are,

  • Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine- they together perform the important functions of increasing proteins and serving the body with energy in the times of exercise.
  • Alanine- this specific amino acid has the responsibility to improve alcohol metabolism essential to the health of the liver.
  • Arginine- is an amino acid which is required to maintain normal functions of the blood vessels and other organs. Provides the expansion in blood vessels for the smooth flow of blood. This is even reported to enhance the immunological function of the body and also eliminates excessive ammonia from the body.
  • Glutamine- is an amino acid which is required to maintain the normal functions of the gastrointestinal tract and the muscles present in the body. This amino acid is present in the most abundant amounts within the body. Glutamine is utilized as a source of energy for the intestine.
  • Lysine- is considered to enhance the nutritional value of the diet which is consumed by the body.
  • Aspartic acid- present in the asparagus of the body, is widely used as a source of energy for the body.
  • Glutamic acid- widely referred to as glutamate, this amino acid has the function to provide energy to the body. Glutamate also performs the function of recovering the body from fatigue.
  • Proline- forms the main component of the skin, performs the function of acting as a fast energy provided to the body.
  • Cysteine- has a deficiency in the body of the infants, also performs the function of providing energy to the adult human body.
  • Threonine- carries the essentiality to form the site for the enzyme activity.
  • Methionine- is an essential amino acid which is used for the production of various substances which is needed by the body.
  • Histidine- is an essential amino acid which is used for the production of histamine and others within the body.
  • Phenylalanine- is an important amino acid in the body which is used for the production of a large variety of useful amines within the body.
  • Tyrosine- used in the production of various useful amines and is sometimes referred to as the aromatic amino acid together with that of phenylalanine and tryptophan.
  • Tryptophan- is also a useful amino acid which is used to produce a variety of useful amines.
  • Asparagine- is an amino acid which is located close to the TCA cycle together with that of the aspartic acid.
  • Glycine- utilized in the production of glutathione and porphyrin which is a component of hemoglobin.
  • Serine- used to produce phospholipids and glyceric acid.

Characteristics of Amino acids

The characteristics of amino acids are,

i) Amino acids are referred to as the basic units of protein.

ii) All of the amino acids contain at least one of the acidic carboxylic acid group and one of the basic amino group.

iii) Amino acids are solids which do not have any color and are crystalline in structure.

iv) The amino acids are soluble in water and insoluble within the organic solvent.

v) Only the L-form of the amino acids are found within the proteins which are present in the human body. If the D-form is present then it is converted into the I-form with the help of the enzymes in the liver.

vi) More than a count of 300 amino acids are found in the nature but among them, only 20 amino acids are the standard form which are present in the protein because of the fact that they are coded by the genes.

vii) The other amino acids which are non-standard are modified amino acids and are referred to as the non-protein amino acids.

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