In addition to free amino acids and proteins, significant amounts of amino acids are present in physiological systems as small peptides. One of the most important is the tripeptide glutathione (7-glutamylcysteinylglycine), which acts as an intracellular antioxidant.

Dipeptides found within the cell include carnosine (/3-alanylhistidine) and its methylated derivatives anserine and balenine. These may act as buffers; no other physiological role has been identified.

Peptides are also used in food systems. For example, cysteine-containing peptides, or cysteine itself, are used as improvers in bread making to speed up the cross-linking that is required to give the bread its texture.

Another peptide used in the food industry is aspartame, which is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is a very powerful sweetener that does not have the bitter aftertaste of some other intense sweeteners.

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