Ancient meteorite could reveal the origins of life on Earth

A 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite found in the laying in the imprint of a horseshoe is likely a remnant of cosmic debris left over from the birth of the solar system and could answer questions about how life began on Earth.

Discovery of a mechanism for efficient autophagosome formation

Drs. Nobuo Noda (Director) and Tatsuro Maruyama (Researcher) et al. at the Institute of Microbial Chemistry (BIKAKEN, Tokyo, Japan) discovered that lipidated Atg8, the most famous factor that mediates autophagy, has membrane ...

Songbird ancestors evolved a new way to taste sugar

Humans can easily identify sweet-tasting foods—and with pleasure. However, many carnivorous animals lack this ability, and whether birds, descendants of meat-eating dinosaurs, can taste sweet was previously unclear. An ...

Protein's 'silent code' affects how cells move

The protein actin is ubiquitous and essential for life. In mammals, every cell expresses two of its forms, beta-actin and gamma-nonmuscle-actin. Despite having distinct roles, the two forms are nearly identical, sharing 99% ...

How an unfolding protein can induce programmed cell death

The death of cells is well regulated. If it occurs too much, it can cause degenerative diseases. Too little, and cells can become tumors. Mitochondria, the power plants of cells, play a role in this programmed cell death. ...

Digging into the molecules of fossilized dinosaur eggshells

Dinosaurs roamed the Earth more than 65 million years ago, and paleontologists and amateur fossil hunters are still unearthing traces of them today. The minerals in fossilized eggs and shell fragments provide snapshots into ...

Polymers in meteorites provide clues to early solar system

Many meteorites, which are small pieces from asteroids, do not experience high temperatures at any point in their existence. Because of this, these meteorites provide a good record of complex chemistry present when or before ...

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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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