New organic compounds found in Enceladus ice grains

New kinds of organic compounds, the ingredients of amino acids, have been detected in the plumes bursting from Saturn's moon Enceladus. The findings are the result of the ongoing deep dive into data from NASA's Cassini mission.

Spider silk: A malleable protein provides reinforcement

Why are the lightweight silk threads of web spiders tougher than most other materials? Scientists from the Universities of Würzburg and Mainz teamed up to find answers to this question. They were able to show that the natural ...

Decoding messages in the body's microscopic metropolises

A study aimed at identifying and examining the small messenger proteins used by microbes living on and inside humans has revealed an astounding diversity of more than 4,000 families of molecules – many of which have never ...

Cutting acrylamide in fried and baked snacks

In 2002, the discovery of acrylamide in certain snacks rattled consumers and the food industry. Acrylamide, a probable human carcinogen, forms by a chemical reaction during baking or frying. Although experts say it's impossible ...

Artificial Intelligence speeds up photodynamics simulations

The prediction of molecular reactions triggered by light is to date extremely time-consuming and therefore costly. A team led by Philipp Marquetand from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna has now presented ...

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Amino acid

In chemistry, an amino acid is a molecule containing both amine and carboxyl functional groups. These molecules are particularly important in biochemistry, where this term refers to alpha-amino acids with the general formula H2NCHRCOOH, where R is an organic substituent. In the alpha amino acids, the amino and carboxylate groups are attached to the same carbon atom, which is called the α–carbon. The various alpha amino acids differ in which side chain (R group) is attached to their alpha carbon. They can vary in size from just a hydrogen atom in glycine through a methyl group in alanine to a large heterocyclic group in tryptophan.

Amino acids are critical to life, and have a variety of roles in metabolism. One particularly important function is as the building blocks of proteins, which are linear chains of amino acids. Amino acids are also important in many other biological molecules, such as forming parts of coenzymes, as in S-adenosylmethionine, or as precursors for the biosynthesis of molecules such as heme. Due to this central role in biochemistry, amino acids are very important in nutrition.

Amino acids are commonly used in food technology and industry. For example, monosodium glutamate is a common flavor enhancer that gives foods the taste called umami. Beyond the amino acids that are found in all forms of life, amino acids are also used in industry. Applications include the production of biodegradable plastics, drugs and chiral catalysts.

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