What is an Amino Acid?
Amino Acids are the organic compounds which combine to form proteins, hence they are referred to as the building components of proteins. These biomolecules are involved in several biological and chemical functions in a human body and are the necessary ingredients for the growth and development of human beings. There are about 300 amino acids which occur in nature.
Amino acids contain the basic amino groups (-NH2) and carboxyl groups (-COOH). The ingredients present in proteins are of amino acids. Both peptides and proteins are the long chains of amino acids. Altogether, there are twenty amino acids, which are involved in the construction of proteins.
Listed below are the names of twenty amino acids along with their chemical formula.
General properties of Amino Acids
- They have a very high melting and boiling point.
- Amino acids are white crystalline solid substances.
- In taste, few Amino acids are sweet, tasteless, and bitter.
- Most of the amino acids are soluble in water and are insoluble in organic solvents.
Essential and Nonessential Amino Acids
Out of 20 amino acids, our body can easily synthesize a few by their own and are called as non-essential amino acids. They include alanine, asparagine, arginine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, cysteine, glutamine, proline, glycine, serine, and tyrosine.
Apart from these, there are other nine amino acids which are very much essential as they cannot be synthesized by our body. They are called as essential amino acids and they include isoleucine, histidine, lysine, leucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, methionine, threonine, and valine.
Also read about Proteins
Structure of Amino Acids
The general structure of Amino acids is H2NCH RCOOH and it can be written as:
H2N – – C – – H
There are 20 naturally occurring amino acids and all have common structural features – an amino group (-NH3+), a carboxylate (-COO-) group and a hydrogen-bonded to the same carbon atom. They differ from each other in their side-chain called R group. Each amino acid has 4 different groups attached to α- carbon.
These 4 groups are:
- Amino group,
- Hydrogen atom,
- Sidechain (R).
Here is the structure of twenty amino acids with their chemical formula.
Sources of Amino Acids
Amino acids play an important role in performing several biological and chemical functions in different parts of our body, including building and repairing of the tissues, in the formation and function of enzymes, food digestion, for the transportation of molecules, etc. Our body can synthesize only certain amino acids and the rest of the amino acids which are called as essential amino acids should be supplied through protein-rich foods in our daily diet. Foods rich in amino acids include plant-based products like broccoli, beans, beetroots, pumpkin, cabbage, nuts, dry fruits, chia seeds, oats, peas, carrots, cucumber, green leafy vegetables, onions, soybeans, whole grain, peanuts legumes, lentils, etc. Fruits rich in amino acids are apples, banana, berries, figs, grapes, melons, oranges, papaya, pineapple, and pomegranates. Other animal products include dairy products, eggs, seafood, chicken, meat, pork etc.
Functions of Amino Acids
- Functions of Essential Amino Acids
- Phenylalanine helps in maintaining a healthy nervous system and in boosting the memory power.
- Valine acts as an important component in promoting the muscle growth.
- Threonine helps in promoting the functions of the immune system.
- Tryptophan is involved in the production of vitamin B3 and serotonin hormone. This serotonin hormone plays a vital role in maintaining our appetite, regulate sleep and boosts our moods.
- Isoleucine plays a vital role in the formation of haemoglobin, stimulating the pancreas to synthesize insulin, and in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the various parts.
- Methionine is used in the treatment of kidney stones, maintaining healthy skin and also used in controlling invade of pathogenic bacteria.
- Leucine is involved in promoting the protein synthesis and growth hormones.
- Lysine is necessary for promoting the formation of antibodies, hormones, enzymes and in the development and fixation of calcium in bones.
- Histidine is involved in many enzymatic processes and in the synthesizing of both red blood cells (erythrocyte) and white blood cells (leukocytes).
- Functions of Non-Essential Amino Acids
- Alanine functions by removing toxins from our body and in the production of glucose and other amino acids.
- Cysteine acts as an antioxidant provides resistance to our body and inhibits the growth of hairs, nails, etc.
- Glutamine promotes a healthy brain function and is necessary for the synthesis of nucleic acids – DNA and RNA.
- Glycine is helpful in maintaining the proper cell growth, its function and it also plays a vital role in healing wounds. It acts as a neurotransmitter.
- Glutamic acid acts as a neurotransmitter and is mainly involved in the development and functioning of a human brain.
- Arginine helps in promoting the synthesis of proteins and hormones, detoxification of the kidneys, in healing wounds, and in maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Tyrosine plays a vital role in the production of the thyroid hormones -T3 and T4, in synthesizing a class of neurotransmitters and melanin, which is natural pigments found in our eyes, hair, and skin.
- Serine helps in promoting muscle growth and in the synthesis of immune system proteins.
- Asparagine is mainly involved in the transportation of nitrogen into our body cells, formations of purines and pyrimidine for the synthesis of DNA, in the development of the nervous system and in improving our body stamina.
- Aspartic acid plays a major role in metabolism and in promoting the synthesis of other amino acids.
- Proline is mainly involved in the repairing of the tissues in the formation of collagen, preventing the thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and in the regeneration of new skin.
Deficiency of Amino Acids
As mentioned above, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and proteins plays a fundamental role in almost all life processes. Therefore, it is necessary to include all nine essential amino acids in our daily diet to maintain a healthy and proper function of our body. The deficiency of amino acids may include different pathological disorders including:
- Loss of Appetite.
- Fat deposit in the liver.
- Skin and hair related problems.
- Headache, weakness, irritability, and fatigue.
Also refer-Deficiency Diseases
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