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Glutamic Acid: Structure, Formula & Function

Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
In this lesson, you will learn about the structure, function, formula and importance of glutamic acid. At the end of the lesson you can check your understanding by taking a short quiz.

What Is Glutamic Acid?

Have you ever heard of glutamic acid? Glutamic acid is one of twenty amino acids. Amino acids are chemicals that form proteins which make up tissue, cells and transmit chemical information within our bodies to your brains. There are two categories of amino acids: essential and non-essential amino acids.

  • Essential amino acids are amino acids that organisms must ingest through food because they are incapable of building them from other chemicals within their bodies.
  • Non-essential amino acids are amino acids that an organism can form in their body from other chemicals.

Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid that forms proteins. This amino acid has a chemical formula of C5H9NO4. In the literature a person might read about Glu or see the letter E; these are both abbreviations for glutamic acid. Glutamic acid has the normal amino acid structure of an amino acid: amine group, central carbon, carboxylic group and an R group. An amine group is a chemical group that contains one nitrogen and two hydrogens. The amine group is attached to a central carbon. Think of the central carbon as the bridge between chemical groups. The carboxylic group is a chemical group that has one carbon that is attached with a single bond to an oxygen and hydrogen and is also attached by a double bond to a single oxygen. These three structures: the amine, central carbon and carboxylic group are common to all amino acids.

Amino acid structure.
amino acids structure

The R group is what makes each amino acid special. In the case of Glu, the R group is C3H5O2. This group is polar in nature. Polar means that this molecule is slightly positively charged on one side and slightly negative on the other.

Glutamic acid structure.
Glutamic acid

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