Amino acids

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Amino acids are the basic components of proteins. Chemically, their basic structure consists or R-C-NH2COOH. NH2 is the amine group, from which the first part of the name derives, while COOH is the carboxylate group common to organic acids.

Amino-acid synthesis is complex (see this clickable chart) and as humans lack some enzyme systems some amino acids are essential and have to be obtained from the diet. The remaining amino acids can often be produced from modifications of the pool of essential amino acids.

Several amino acids are also precursors to neurotransmitters and hormones, e.g. tryptophan - serotonin; phenylalanine - catecholamines including adrenaline; tyrosine - thyroxine.

Essential amino acids

  1. Isoleucine
  2. Leucine
  3. Lysine
  4. Methionine
  5. Phenylalanine
  6. Threonine
  7. Tryptophan
  8. Valine
  9. Arginine - considered essential in children and in conditions of stress that increase protein catabolism. In these situations, the body cannot synthesise sufficient and is dependent on arginine from the diet.
The 20 Amino Acids
Name Abbrev (classic) Abbrev (FASTER) Notes DNA Codons Structure
Alanine ala A Aliphatic GCT, GCC, GCA, GCG Alanine.png
Arginine arg R Basic, Essential in children CGT, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, AGG Arginine.png
Asparagine asn N Amidic (containing amide group), asparagine/aspartic acid may have to be abbreviated asx - B AAT, AAC Asparagine.png
Aspartic acid asp D Acidic, asparagine/aspartic acid may have to be abbreviated asx - B GAT, GAC Aspartic acid.png
Cysteine cys C Sulphur-containing TGT, TGC Cysteine.png
Glutamine gln Q (Z) Amidic (containing amide group), glutamine/glutamic acid may have to be abbreviated glx - Z CAA, CAG Glutamine.png
Glutamic acid glu E(Z) Acidic, glutamine/glutamic acid may have to be abbreviated glx - Z GAA, GAG Glutamic acid.png
Glycine gly G Aliphatic GGT, GGC, GGA, GGG Glycine.png
Histidine his H Basic CAT, CAC Histidine.png
Isoleucine ile I Aliphatic, Essential ATT, ATC, ATA Isoleucine.png
Leucine leu L Aliphatic, Essential CTT, CTC, CTA, CTG, TTA, TTG Leucine.png
Lysine lys K Basic, Essential AAA, AAG Lysine.png
Methionine met M Sulphur-containing, Essential ATG Methionine.png
Phenylalanine phe F Aromatic, Essential TTT, TTC Phenylalanine.png
Proline pro P Aliphatic CCT, CCC, CCA, CCG Proline.png
Serine ser S Hydroxylic TCT, TCC, TCA, TCG, AGT, AGC Serine.png
Threonine thr T Hydroxylic, Essential ACT, ACC, ACA, ACG Threonine.png
Tryptophan trp W Aromatic, Essential TGG Tryptophan.png
Tyrosine tyr Y Aromatic TAT, TAC Tyrosine.png
Valine val V Aliphatic, Essential GTT, GTC, GTA, GTG Valine.png
Stop * Instruction code TAA, TAG, TGA

All 64 possible 3 letter codons are used.

Note: The FASTA format AA code also uses X for any AA, Z for either glutamine/glutamic acid and - for a gap.