The building blocks of proteins are amino acids. They are called so due to the reason that the enzymatic digestion of the proteins leads to the amino acids formation. The French chemists have discovered the first amino acid by isolating a compound from asparagus. The first amino acid is titled “Asparagine”. More than 500 naturally occurring amino acids were found. Among these amino acids, only 20 were found in the genetic codes.
In this article, let us learn about amino acid classification, amino acid formula, amino acid molecular formula, structure, and properties.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are the monomers of the polypeptide chain or proteins. These are made up of carbon chain, amino group and acetate group. Amino acids connect each other to form small chains of polymers called peptides and larger chains are called polypeptides or proteins. Non-proteinogenic amino acids are formed as a result of post-translational modifications.
General Formula of Amino Acid
Amino Acid formula, is also known as the Nitrate of potash formula or Saltpeter formula. This organic compound is made up of functional groups namely amine and carboxyl. Along with these functional groups, it has a side chain that is specific to each amino acid. The major elements that are present in the functional groups include carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen.
The general formula of amino acid is given as R-CH(NH2)-COOH. Here -NH2 represents the basic amino group, -COOH is the acidic carboxyl group. R represents the organic side chain that is found to be unique in each and every amino acid.
In every molecule of amino acid, the carbon atom (⍺-carbon) is placed at the center to which both the carboxyl group and hydrogen atom are placed closer.
Amino Acid Structural Formula
Amino Acid Classification
Amino acids are classified into three types depending on their essentiality:
Essential Amino Acids: Essential amino acids belong to a group of amino acids that cannot be created by the human body. As a result of this, they must be obtained through food. There are nine essential amino acids namely lysine, isoleucine, histidine, leucine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, threonine, and valine.
Non-Essential Amino Acids: Non-essential amino acids belong to the group of amino acids that our bodies can produce. Some of the non-essential amino acids are alanine, cysteine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, serine, proline, and tyrosine.
Conditional Amino Acids: Conditional amino acids are usually not essential, except in times of illness and stress. Conditional amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, tyrosine, glycine, ornithine, proline, and serine.
Uses of Amino Acid
1. In industry:
Several amino acids and their derivatives are used as flavour enhancers in many dishes. For example, monosodium glutamate is a derivative of glutamic acid.
Used as preservatives in packaged foods, the commonly used amino acid is cysteine.
Many of the plant-based products lack certain amino acids thus certain amino acids are used to increase the nutritional value.
Some of the amino acids are used as a precursor for certain kinds of chemicals.
2. In Humans:
For the good growth of an individual, there is a need for proteins, thus amino acids help in the healthy growth of an individual.
Helps to repair the body tissue.
Amino acids are required to perform various functions in the body.
3. In the Field of Medicine:
The amino acid chemical structure is used in the treatment of imbalances occurring due to brain metabolism and neurotransmission.
Used to improve gastrointestinal health, cardiovascular health, and immune system.
To prevent the GI toxicity that is induced due to chemotherapy.
Production of Amino Acids
The amino acids can be produced by various methods namely,
Chemical Synthesis: Amino acids can be synthesised chemically. In the chemical synthesis of amino acids, certain methods are extracted from natural sources, enzymatic catalysis, or fermentation. Chemical synthesis is used for the mass production of specific amino acids in industry. But there is a major drawback of this technique is, it can produce two forms of amino acids called enantiomers. They should be separated before they are released to use.
Fermentation: Fermentation is currently used only for the synthesis of lysine and glutamic acid. For industrial production of amino acids trains of certain mutant bacteria are needed, but they are difficult to produce.
Biosynthesis: In plants, nitrogen can be assimilated first to form organic compounds in the form of glutamate in the mitochondrion. For another type of amino acids, plants use transaminases in order to move the amino group. Non-standard amino acids are usually made by modifying the standard amino acids.
Difference Between Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids are the monomers of the polypeptide chain or proteins. These are made up of carbon chain, amino group and acetate group. Amino acids connect each other to form small chains of polymers called peptides and larger chains are called polypeptides or proteins. The general formula of amino acid is R-CH(NH2)-COOH. Three types of amino acids are present: essential amino acid and non essential amino acid and conditional amino acid.