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Amino acid

Organic compounds containing amine and carboxylic groups / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Amino acids are organic compounds that contain both amino and carboxylic acid functional groups.[1] Although over 500 amino acids exist in nature, by far the most important are the alpha-amino acids, from which proteins are composed.[2] Only 22 alpha amino acids appear in the genetic code of all life.[3][4]

Structure of a generic L-alpha-amino acid in the "neutral" form needed for defining a systematic name, without implying that this form actually exists in detectable amounts either in aqueous solution or in the solid state.

Amino acids can be classified according to the locations of the core structural functional groups, as alpha- (α-), beta- (β-), gamma- (γ-) or delta- (δ-) amino acids; other categories relate to polarity, ionization, and side chain group type (aliphatic, acyclic, aromatic, containing hydroxyl or sulfur, etc.). In the form of proteins, amino acid residues form the second-largest component (water being the largest) of human muscles and other tissues.[5] Beyond their role as residues in proteins, amino acids participate in a number of processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis. It is thought that they played a key role in enabling life on Earth and its emergence.

Amino acids are formally named by the IUPAC-IUBMB Joint Commission on Biochemical Nomenclature in terms of the fictitious "neutral" structure shown in the illustration. For example, the systematic name of alanine is 2-aminopropanoic acid, based on the formula CH3−CH(NH2)−COOH. The Commission justified this approach as follows:[6]

The systematic names and formulas given refer to hypothetical forms in which amino groups are unprotonated and carboxyl groups are undissociated. This convention is useful to avoid various nomenclatural problems but should not be taken to imply that these structures represent an appreciable fraction of the amino-acid molecules.