Q: Describe the structure of an amino acid and the formation of a peptide bond.

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Proteins are made up of organic molecules called amino acids. There are thousands of different proteins with diverse functions: storage, transport, structural support, cellular communication, enzymes and hormones.

However, all these proteins are constructed from the same set of 20 amino acids, linked together in polymers.

The amino acids in a protein are bonded to each other with peptide bonds - hence the term for a polymer of amino acids is a polypeptide.

There are 20 different amino acids, and they all share the same general structure. In the centre of the amino acid is an assymetric carbon atom called the alpha carbon. This carbon is covalently bonded to four different groups: an amino group, a carboxyl group, a hydrogen atom, and a variable group symbolised by R. 

The R group (also known as a side chain) is different for each of the 20 amino acids. For example the amino acid Alanine has a methyl group at this position, whereas Glycine has a hydrogen atom.

The amino group of one amino acid will bond to the carboxyl group of the next amino acid. This bond is called a peptide bond and it is formed by a dehydration reaction, where a water molecule is removed

Many amino acids joined by peptide bonds form a polypeptide.

Florence M.

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