Serine: Definition & Structure

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  • 0:01 Definition of Serene
  • 0:52 The Structure of Serine
  • 2:00 The Function of Serine
  • 2:46 Where Do Humans Get Serine?
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
Amino acids are the building blocks of chemicals that are vital to your very life. In this lesson, you will learn about one amino acid in particular - serine. You will discover its structure and learn how it is the building block of many chemicals.

Definition of Serine

Humans depend on chemicals called amino acids in order to sustain proper function. There are twenty amino acids that humans need. Of these twenty, there are nine that are essential amino acids, meaning we humans cannot make them from other chemicals in our body and must obtain them instead from our diet. The other eleven are non-essential amino acids, which means they can be made in the human body.

The amino acid serine is one of these non-essential amino acids and an important component in metabolism and the formation of nucleotides. You might see serine abbreviated as (ser) or (s) in articles and diagrams. Serine is also the starting molecule to other amino acids, such as glycine and cysteine in bacteria. It's also a building block to other nutrients such as folate, and it is vital for baby health and growth.

The Structure of Serine

What makes serine so important and versatile is its structure. In general, all amino acids have the same structure: an amino group attached to a hydrogen, a carboxyl group and a side chain group, all connected to a central carbon. The amino and carboxyl groups and central carbon are considered the amino acid backbone. That backbone is the same in all amino acids. It is the side chain that is specific to each amino acid. It is this side chain that distinguishes each amino acid from the others. The side chain group is shown by R when diagramming amino acids, leading scientists to call the side change the R group. The specific structure of serine is indicative of its chemical formula, C3H7NO3. The R group structure, CH3O, attaches to the central carbon of the amino acid back bone. Remember, that's the carbon along with the amino and carboxyl groups. Serine is polar in nature. That means that the serine molecule is both positively and negatively charged. This polar characteristic makes serine hydrophilic, or water-loving.

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