The Chemistry of Amino Acids


  • Amino acids are one of the major building blocks of life. They are what make up proteins which make up people. I chose to study the chemistry of amino acids because it really interests me how they play such a large role in our lives, yet people know so little about them! If it were not for amino acids we wouldn’t be alive.Composition of ...
    • Amino Acids have three major parts
      • the amino group
      • the carboxyl group
      • the side chain
    • Amino Group
      • Written as NH2
      • Contains two Hydrogen atoms and one Nitrogen atom
    • Carboxyl Group
      • Written as COOH
      • One Carbon atom, two Oxygen atoms, and one Hydrogen atom
    • Side Chain (R Group)
      • Unique to every amino acid
      • determines size, polarity, and pH for each amino acid

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

As stated earlier, the side chain is one of the major parts of an amino acid. Without side chains, all amino acids would be the same. Therefore proteins could not be made, which means that we couldn’t be made. Side chains are a string of varying atoms that branch off of the bottom of the central carbon. In some cases, the side chain may loop around and connect to the amino group or the carboxyl group. The side chain determines the pH of the amino acid, meaning it can make the amino acid into either a weak base or a weak acid. Also, the amino acid becomes what is called a hydrophile if the side chain is polar or else a hydrophobe if the side chain is nonpolar.

Another important thing to understand when learning about amino acids is how they bond. The bonds between amino acids are covalent, meaning they are bonded because they share an electron pair. When two amino acids connect, the amino group of one connects to the carboxyl group of the other, releasing a water molecule. A water molecule is released because the carboxyl group releases one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, and the amino group of the other amino acid releases the second hydrogen in order to make H2O, or water. When bonded together, the sequence and number of the amino acids determine the protein’s size, shape, and function.

Chemistry's Role

Chemistry has a lot to do with amino acids. The process of amino acids turning into proteins involves chemistry. Another way that amino acids have to do with chemistry is the elements they contain. All amino acids contain at least hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen.

Background Research

The main job of amino acids, called is called translation. During translation, ribosomes make hundreds of copies of DNA called messenger RNA, or mRNA. This newly created mRNA then tells amino acids what order to bond together to form certain proteins. These proteins then serve many different life-sustaining purposes throughout the body. All amino acids that the human body needs are either produced by the body, or must be consumed by the food we eat.


Overview of amino acids in relation to proteins.

Different types of amino acids

More on types and uses of amino acids

chemical structure and intro to side groups

in depth look at essential and nonessential amino acids

Specific uses of 20 proteinogenic amino acids

Chemical structure of amino acids, side chains, peptide bonds

Side chains

amino acids and translation

About the Author

Deontae Gillespie is a junior at Billings Senior High School. He really enjoys chemistry and how it applies to everyday life. He would like to pursue a career in the field of science, probably relating to the body, although he does not know for sure what his future plans are. He is a member of the Platinum Program, STEM club, has maintained a 4.0 thus far in high school, and is a member of the varsity wrestling team.