Immunology

Study identifies viral peptides critical to natural HIV control

Investigators at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard have used a novel approach to identify specific amino acids in the protein structure of HIV that appear critical to the ability of the virus to function and replicate. ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Seeking better detection for chronic malaria

In people with chronic malaria, certain metabolic systems in the blood change to support a long-term host-parasite relationship, a finding that is key to eventually developing better detection, treatment and eradication of ...

Neuroscience

Brain signaling proteins hit the road running

Surprisingly complex movements in an important neurotransmitter receptor may help explain the brain's unpredictable response to drugs, according to a new study. New research from an international team, published this week ...

Health

Put down the protein shake: Variety of protein better for health

Amino acids have long been touted by the fitness and bodybuilding communities for their muscle building benefits. From ultra-bulk protein powders to lean mass-promoting snack bars, there's no shortage of products available ...

Medical research

The fluid that feeds tumor cells

Before being tested in animals or humans, most cancer drugs are evaluated in tumor cells grown in a lab dish. However, in recent years, there has been a growing realization that the environment in which these cells are grown ...

Psychology & Psychiatry

Inflammation linked to chemical imbalance in schizophrenia

A study published in Molecular Psychiatry has identified changes in inflammation-related biochemical pathways in schizophrenia that interfere with proper brain nerve cell communication. Researchers have found the first direct ...

Diabetes

Researchers identify trigger and mechanism in type 1 diabetes

Researchers at National Jewish Health have identified an elusive trigger of type 1 diabetes. A protein fragment formed in the pancreas activates the immune system's T cells, leading them to attack and destroy beta cells, ...

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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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