Alanine: Structure & Formula Video

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  • 0:00 Definition of Alanine
  • 0:38 The Structure of Alanine
  • 1:42 The Function of Alanine
  • 2:44 Where Alanine Can Be Found
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
In this lesson you will learn about alanine, a non-essential amino acid. Discover why alanine is non-essential and explore its function, structure and formula, then test your newfound knowledge with a quiz!

Definition of Alanine

Have you ever wondered why some amino acids are called non-essential, but are still needed for general organismal functions? Alanine is a non-essential amino acid with the abbreviation of A or Ala. Alanine is one of the twenty amino acids needed for life function, but it is defined as non-essential. Make sure not to get non-essential confused with 'not needed,' however. All non-essential means in terms of amino acids is that the body can produce it rather than needing to obtain it through outside food sources.

The Structure of Alanine

In general, all amino acids have the same structure: an amino group attached to a hydrogen, a carboxyl group, and a side chain group that's denoted by 'R' via a central carbon. The amino and carboxyl groups and central carbon are considered the amino acid backbone. This backbone is the same in all amino acids. It's the side chain that is specific to each individual type of amino acid.

The specific structure of alanine is indicative of its chemical formula, CH3. This is simply the backbone of the amino acid structure with a methyl group attached as a side chain. Methyl groups are cleaved regularly in normal body functions, making this amino acid simple to synthesize. Alanine is a non-polar amino acid. It has a linear confirmation and is non-reactive. Because of this non-reactivity, the amino acid is not important in protein function, despite its large prevalence in amino acids within the body. This amino acid is typically 7.8% of the primary structure of proteins.

The Function of Alanine

Alanine is vital in the glucose-alanine cycle, also called the Cahill cycle. This cycle takes place between tissues of the body and the liver. For example, muscle tissue degrades amino acids to provide energy to make the muscle work. These amino acids that are degraded end up as glutamate, which then is transferred to an amino group via the enzyme alanine aminotransferase to form pyruvate. This product is important in muscle glycolysis and goes on to make more energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, better known as ATP.

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