P W Emery, King's College London, London, UK © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Amino acids are a series of small organic molecules whose prime importance lies in the fact that they are the monomers from which proteins are made. The form and functions of proteins depend on the sequence in which the amino acids are joined together since each amino acid has specific chemical and physical properties. In this article, the structures and chemical properties of each amino acid are outlined, with an indication of how this affects the metabolic role of the free amino acid and how it affects the behavior of the amino acid residue within a protein. These chemical properties also form the basis for methods of analysis of amino acids. Some amino acids can be synthesized within the body from other molecules, whereas others cannot, so the final section explains the basis of the classification into essential and nonessential amino acids.
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