Proteins are very much essential for our proper growth and development. There are numerous sources of proteins and each and every one of us should try to consume an adequate amount of this nutrient on a daily basis. This will help us in developing the required muscle mass. Not only muscle growth and development, the protein also plays a very important role in other areas of our health, as well. Almost all of us might know what are the building blocks of proteins. Since our childhood, we have been learning that the proteins are made up of Amino acids. Now, if we take a look at the vital details of these Amino acids, we will understand that they are indeed very essential and without them, the entire world would stop functioning. Their structure, properties, function, etc should be studied properly in order to understand how significant they are in supporting life.
What are the building blocks of proteins?
Amino acids, or more precisely α-amino carboxylic acids are regarded as the basic building blocks or structural units of proteins. If a rough estimate has to be presented, then we can say that typically a protein consists of about fifty to two thousand amino acid units. This is just an approximate value and this number can vary in accordance with the respective protein under consideration. The credit for the discovery of amino acids goes to two famous scientists, John Haldane and Harold Urey. Their combined works helped in unraveling the mystery behind proteins. During the course of one of their experiments, they tried to create the emulation of the atmosphere that was present on primordial Earth. It was Stanley Miller who was responsible for carrying out an analysis of the compounds which were obtained during the above mentioned experiment. This made him realize that the creation of organic molecules such as amino acids are indeed possible. His curiosity to find out more about this organic molecule led to the discovery of different amino acids such as aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, alanine, etc.
Know all about the structure of Amino acids
Now that we know, what are the building blocks of proteins, let’s discuss in detail about the structure of these molecules. When it comes to organic molecules, a clear understanding of their structures is very essential. Structure plays a very important role in determining the properties, as well as the function of any given molecule. There are a number of different amino acids that have been discovered during different instances. But, all of them share the same basic structure and accommodate certain modifications here and there resulting in different subtypes.
- The centermost position of every amino acid is occupied by a carbon molecule.
- The Carbon atom is denoted as the α carbon and four other chemical groups are attached to this α carbon. These groups are listed below.
- A hydrogen atom
- An α- carboxyl group
- An α-amine group
- An R-group
- The R-group in this structure is often referred to as the side chain. An essential characteristic of this structure is that the α carbon, carboxyl, as well as the amino groups are common and are present in all amino acids. Hence, it is the R-group that makes each amino acid unique.
Properties of Amino Acids
We have discussed what are the building blocks of proteins, as well as the structure of amino acids. The properties associated with the amino acids should also be addressed properly.
- These molecules are completely colorless, and they possess a crystalline texture.
- The majority of amino acids that are known to us are tasteless. However, Glycine and Alanine ate exceptions. They have a somewhat sweet taste.
- Some amino acids such as Arginine even taste bitter.
- These molecules possess a high melting point because of their ionic property.
- Amino acid’s solubility depends mainly on polarity, nature of solvent (pH), iso-electric point, as well as temperature.
- They have the ability to behave as both acid and base because of their dipolar nature. This behavior is also termed as zwitter ion nature.
Functions associated with Amino Acids
By now, the readers might have gathered a clear idea about what are the building blocks of proteins, structure of amino acids, and properties of amino acids. Now, it’s time to go through the function of these molecules in detail.
- The amino acid, Isoleucine, helps in the formation of hemoglobin molecules. It also stimulates the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin. Further, it assists in the transportation of oxygen from our lungs to the different parts of our body.
- Another amino acid, lysine is vital for the production of antibodies, enzymes, and certain hormones. It also promotes the development, as well as fixation of calcium in our bones.
- Cysteine functions as an antioxidant and it provides the much needed resistance to the body. This amino acid also helps in the production of collagen which maintains the texture, as well as elasticity of the skin.
- The amino acid, Arginine, helps in the synthesis of protein, as well as hormones. It also promotes detoxification in the kidneys. It is also beneficial when it comes to healing wounds, and building up immunity.
The answer to the question, what are the building blocks of proteins indicates that the amino acids are those organic molecules which combine to form the structure of a protein. Likewise, if these proteins are broken down or digested in our body, we will be left with these amino acids. These amino acids are then utilized by the human body to build protein molecules for the body. The produced proteins are thereafter used for a number of purposes such as breakdown of food, growth, repair of tissues, to perform other body functions, etc. These organic molecules can be further classified into three sub-groups. These include the Essential amino acids, Nonessential amino acids, and Conditionally essential amino acids. Consuming these amino acids in an appropriate balance over the whole day is very important. This will help us to remain fit and healthy.