What Are the Differences Between the Amino Acids?

As we’ve covered in a previous article, there are three main types of amino acids. These are essential, non-essential, and conditional amino acids. However, how are the twenty separate amino acids different, and what makes them unique?

This blog post will discuss these differences in more detail, including the structure, how they are produced, and the various groups these are assigned to.

The structure of amino acids 

Usually, amino acids contain a carbon (alpha carbon), a hydrogen atom (H), a carboxyl group (-COOH), a variable or ‘R’ group, and an amino group (-NH2). The carbon bonds to the carboxyl group, hydrogen atom, and an amino group. Meanwhile, the ‘R’ group changes dependant on the differences between the protein monomers. 

The cellular genetic code determines the sequence of a protein, further ascertaining the order of these acids in a protein and its function and structure. 

How are these produced? 

Not all acids can be produced naturally by the body. In fact, only eleven out of twenty of these can be produced by the body, while the remaining nine require diet supplementation to obtain these essential acids. 

Often, those with dietary restrictions may suffer a deficiency in certain amino acids, especially if they don’t eat foods such as eggs, whitefish, or soy protein. However, there are supplements available to maintain a healthy count within your body.

As for the conditional acids, these are produced only when required, for example, when fighting off an illness.

Group assignment of amino acids 

Finally, alongside the three different categories of acids (essential, non-essential, and conditional), there are also groups based on their individual properties. These groups are as follows:

  1. Polar
  2. Non-polar
  3. Positively charged
  4. Negatively charged

Polar amino acids require to seek contact with liquid, while non-polar are the opposite and avoid aqueous solutions. These contribute to the 3D structure of the protein and the role they play as a whole.

It is possible to go into a lot more detail; however, we’ll stick to the basics for now!

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