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Michigan State University

Amino Acids Pathfinder

A user's introductory guide to everything someone may want to know about amino acids. Amino acids are an essential building block of life. This guide is for the student beginning their studies in biochemistry, who has little or no previous knowledge of a

What are amino acids?

"Amino acid, any of a group of organic molecules that consist of a basic amino group (―NH2), an acidic carboxyl group (―COOH), and an organic R group (or side chain) that is unique to each amino acid. The term amino acid is short for α-amino [alpha-amino] carboxylic acid. Each molecule contains a central carbon (C) atom, called the α-carbon, to which both an amino and a carboxyl group are attached. The remaining two bonds of the α-carbon atom are generally satisfied by a hydrogen (H) atom and the R group.

Amino acids function as the building blocks of proteins. Proteins catalyze the vast majority of chemical reactions that occur in the cell. They provide many of the structural elements of a cell, and they help to bind cells together into tissues." - From Encyclopedia Brittanica (7/17/2019)

Understanding Amino Acids

Natural Amino Acids Chart

List of Natural Amino Acids from Virtual Textbook of Organic Chemistry. 

Michigan State University