Proteins are at the heart of living organisms. Their functions are very varied, from the hair on your head, to the haemoglobin in your red blood cells (which carries oxygen around the body), to the claws of a lion, to insulin (blood glucose regulation). All these highly varied polymer proteins are made of their building blocks, monomers called amino acids. This is what the generalised structure of an amino acid looks like (make sure you can draw this):
If you’re wondering what this actually is, read on. The clues are in the name (as they usually are).
AMINO – the H2N on the left hand side is an amino group
ACID – the COOH on the right hand side is a carboxylic acid group (simply an acid)
The hydrogen (H) on the bottom is there all the time (just like the amino group and the acid group), while the R group is the variable which determines what particular amino acid this will be. For example, if the R group was a hydrogen, the amino acid would be…