'Semi-synthetic' bacteria churn out unnatural proteins

Synthetic biologists seek to create new life with forms and functions not seen in nature. Although scientists are a long way from making a completely artificial life form, they have made semi-synthetic organisms that have ...

In the active center of carbon dioxide conversion

In order to overcome the climate crisis, two measures are required: The reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and removal of CO2 from the earth atmosphere. The latter is the goal of Tobias Erb's research group at the ...

How comb jellies adapted to life in the deep sea

Washed up on a beach, a comb jelly or ctenophore (pronounced "teen-oh-four") might look like a little transparent grape. But ctenophores are extremely diverse, living from the equator to the poles and from the ocean surface ...

Did comet impacts jump-start life on Earth?

Comets screaming through the atmosphere of early Earth at tens of thousands of miles per hour likely contained measurable amounts of protein-forming amino acids. Upon impact, these amino acids self-assembled into significantly ...

Goat milk kefir is proven to be good for your health

Kefir is a fermented dairy product that is gradually becoming more and more common on the shelves of Spanish shops and supermarkets. Since it is a milk-based product, made from lactic acid and alcoholic fermentation, it is ...

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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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