Valine: Function, Structure & Degradation

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  • 0:04 Valine
  • 1:07 Structure
  • 2:41 Function
  • 3:09 Food Sources
  • 3:23 Degredation
  • 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
In this lesson, you'll learn what valine is, how it's vital to life, and and how it breaks down. You'll also find information about the everyday foods that are high in valine.


Have you heard of amino acids? They're chemicals that are vital to life, and humans require twenty in order to function normally. Of these twenty, there are around ten that are essential amino acids, meaning we can't make them from other chemicals in our own bodies and need to obtain them from the food we eat.

The amino acid valine is one of these essential amino acids and is found in proteins. Without valine, binding sites or recognition sites on cells cannot be formed. When these binding sites are not formed, chemical messages from the brain cannot be translated because the site is not on the outside of a cell or is not shaped to correctly attach to the chemical. Think of these sites as puzzle pieces; each site is a special shape meant for a special chemical. When that chemical has found the shape that fits it, it can stop searching and the chemical message can be translated. These messages can be pretty much anything that you see as an unconscious, basic survival motivation: hunger, sleep, or movement.


In general, all amino acids have the same structure: an amino group attached to a hydrogen, a carboxyl group, and a side chain group, denoted by R via a central carbon. The amino and carboxyl groups and central carbon are considered the amino acid backbone and are the same in all amino acids. It's the side chain that's specific to each amino acid. An amino group is a molecule of NH2, and the carboxyl group is a molecule with the elements COOH. Both groups can donate hydrogen or bind to other amino acids or chemicals. Alternatively, these structures can be broken down and used to form nitrogen containing compounds in the case of NH2, and carbon containing compounds in the case of COOH.

The specific structure of valine is indicative of its chemical formula, C5H11NO2. This structure attaches to the central carbon of the amino acid back bone as the R group. Valine is a branched-chain amino acid molecule, which is a molecule that looks like a Y. Only two other amino acids have this conformation: leucine and isoleucine.

Valine is also non-polar in nature. Non-polar means that the valine molecule is not charged. This allows the molecule to repel water. Since valine doesn't like water, it is found buried inside a protein structure to protect it from water. When studying valine, the abbreviation 'Val' or 'V' might appear; both are indicative of valine.

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