What Are Amino Acids?
What do you call an acid with an attitude? An a-mean-oh acid.
Amino acids are awesome! They have a huge role in the function of our bodies. They function both as building blocks for proteins, and they function as intermediates in metabolic reactions.
There are 20 different types of amino acids found in proteins, which means that there is a huge amount of chemical variation. Another way to say this is that having 20 different amino acids means that your body can do more different things that are good for you; because, within a gene there are sequences of bases that encode different types of proteins, and that sequence determines the exact amino acid content as well as the specific order or sequencing of those amino acids. Well, that specific sequencing of amino acids determines the specific three-dimensional structure of the protein, and the three-dimensional structure of a protein determines that proteins specific role or function.
Well, there are tons of different types of functions in our body that all need amino acids. In fact, proteins, which are made up of amino acids, are used for almost every reaction in our living cells and they control almost every cellular process.
Let’s take a look at nine important functions of amino acids:
Structural Function– All of your bones, muscles, skin, and all of your body’s tissue is built together by proteins, and all proteins are made up of amino acids. Collagen, for example, is the most abundant structural protein in our bodies.
Immune Function– Our immune systems have cells that fight intruders in our bodies, these are called defensive cells. All of our defensive cells are made up of proteins. However, before our defensive cells a can even go and attack these bad guys, they have to be informed that there are bad guys to attack. This is the job of the signaling proteins which are also made up of proteins.
Hormonal function– Every hormone in your body is made up of amino acids. Hormones have several different roles within your body. They manage all metabolic process, growth, thyroid function, a woman’s menstrual cycle, and even things like adrenaline.
Exchange Function: Proteins also work as exchanger. For example if one cell is lacking in something proteins can prompt an exchange or replacement from one cell to another; such as Nucleotide exchange factors.
Motion Function– You may be familiar with actin and myosin. Actin and Myosin are contractile proteins that bind to one another and actually created the force for the movement of the muscle. There are also regulatory proteins that helps switch muscle contraction on and off.
Transporter Function– Maybe you’ve heard of carrier proteins. Well, carrier proteins are what transport things throughout or body. The most common type of carrier protein may be hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein that transports oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. It then releases oxygen to those other parts of the body to power our bodies various functions.
Digestive Function: All digestive enzymes are proteins. These digestive enzymes enable our bodies to actually absorb the nutrients from the food that we eat. Often times, people who are extremely malnourished are unable to absorb the nutrients from the food that they do eat, because they lack an adequate amount of amino acids to be able to form these digestive enzymes.
Cellular Function: Cellular respiration is a metabolic function that basically produces energy in the form of ATP for our body to use for every other function. Our body needs amino acids for cellular respiration to even take place.
Circulatory Function: Our bodies need amino acids for proper blood circulation. For example, L-Arginine is an amino acid which aids in the production of nitric oxide (NO). NO is one of the main messenger molecules that takes part in vascular regulation. Vascular regulation is what helps blood to flow properly.
Out of the 20 amino acids, our bodies can only produce 10 of them. All of the other amino acids must be supplied to our bodies through food. The 10 amino acids that our bodies do not produce are referred to as the essential amino acids. If our bodies fail to receive, even one of the essential amino acids, there will be a degrading of protein in the body. Let me say that again, you can get 9 out of the 10 amino acids every day, but a lack of that one essential amino acids WILL result in a breakdown of protein in your body.
Our body can store an excess of things like fat, and starches to use for energy, but our body DOES NOT store an excess of amino acids. The 10 essential amino acids need to be replenished each day.
The 10 essential amino acids include:
The 10 amino acids that our bodies do produce include:
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are organic molecules made up of an amino group, carboxyl group, and a side chain or R group.
How many amino acids are there?
There are 20 different amino acids:
- aspartic acid
- glutamic acid
What are essential amino acids?
Essential amino acids are those that cannot be produced by your body and therefore must come from food.
What do amino acids do?
Amino acids act as the main building block for proteins, but they are also intermediates in metabolism and may help synthesize other molecules, such as neurotransmitters.
What are amino acids made of?
Amino acids are made of a central carbon atom, an amino group (NH2), a carboxyl group (-COOH), an organic R group (side chain), and hydrogen atoms.
Which polymers are comprised of amino acids?
Proteins are made up of amino acids.
Which two functional groups are always found in amino acids?
The two functional groups always found on amino acids are an amino group (-NH2) and an acidic carboxyl group (-COOH).