How Amino Acids Form Protein

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Amino acids form proteins and these acids join together using a peptide bond. Learn about proteins, amino acids and their structure, the sources of amino acids, and how amino acids form proteins using polypeptides. Updated: 10/05/2021

Proteins and Amino Acids

If I were to ask you what comes to your mind when you hear the word protein, you might think about the dietary proteins you get from the foods you eat, such as steak and eggs. Or, if you have been studying the way the body works, you might think about proteins found inside of you and the different roles they play. There are many different types of proteins, and they are the true workhorses of the body, needed for building structures and maintaining life, yet all proteins have things in common.

For example, break any protein down, and what you will find are a bunch of amino acids bonded together. This is because amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins. In this lesson we will take a look at how amino acids come together to form proteins.

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  • 0:01 Proteins and Amino Acids
  • 0:46 Amino Acid Structure
  • 2:04 Amino Acid Sources
  • 2:37 Forming Polypeptides…
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Amino Acid Structure

Regardless of whether a protein is found in the food on your dinner plate or within your body, it is made up of a chain of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids needed by your body; some of them are made in your body while others must come from your diet.

All of the amino acids have the same basic structure. We see a central carbon atom, which is represented by the letter C, bonded to four different components. We see a hydrogen atom, which is represented by this letter H. We also have a carboxyl group, which is the COOH seen here; and an amino group, which is this NH2 on the other side.

Amino acids are composed of a few different atoms
amino acid structure

So we have a bunch of C's, some O's, H's and N's in the basic structure of an amino acid, which means the most common atoms in amino acids are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, but you probably also noticed the R Group. This represents a side chain, and it is the side chain that makes the 20 amino acids different from each other. However, what we are concerned about in this lesson is how the different amino acids come together to form proteins. So let's stay on that track.

Amino Acid Sources

We mentioned that some of the amino acids are made by your body, while others come from your diet. Now, we don't really think in terms of eating different amino acids. What we eat is protein, which is found in foods like meat, fish, eggs and some plant foods, such as beans and nuts.

Your digestive system takes in these protein-containing foods and breaks them down into the individual amino acids, which are then taken up by your body cells and reassembled into new proteins, much like a builder might demolish a building and then salvage the parts to build a new structure.

Forming Polypeptides and Proteins

Inside your cells, the individual amino acids can bond together by forming a peptide bond, which is simply a chemical bond that joins amino acids together. More specifically, peptide bonds join the carboxyl group of one amino acid with the amino group of another.

For example, the amino acid called glycine can bond with the amino acid called alanine to form a dipeptide. The prefix 'di' means two, so, a dipeptide is defined as a compound consisting of two amino acids. Now, amino acids cannot just join together by holding hands; they actually have to give something up in order to live their lives together.

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