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Structural Basis of Proteins
Proteins: Proteins are the important biomacromolecules present in every living cell and play a significant role in its survival. These organic compounds are found versatile in our body in the form of hair, cartilage, muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin. Proteins are considered as polypeptides. Each protein is a linear chain of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. Amino acids: Amino acids are the fundamental units of proteins. Naturally existing amino acids are of 20 in number. These 20 amino acids arranged together in different manner construct the proteins. All these amino acid possess the same common structure differs only in their side-chain groups. The nature of individual amino acids like shape, size, charge and reactivity depends on these amino, carboxyl and R functional groups attached to them. A typical protein contains approximately 200–300 amino acids. Some proteins like peptides are very small and some like titin present in skeletal muscle are very long having 26,926 amino acids in a single chain. Peptide bond: Amino acids are linked to each other by the formation of the single chemical association called ‘peptide bond’. The peptide bond is resulted from the dehydration reaction between the amino groups of one amino acid with the carboxyl group of the adjacent one. Formation of a peptide bond: It is basically an amide bond which is formed as a result of the linkage between the C – terminal of one amino acid with the N – terminal of another. This is an endergonic reaction and requires the hydrolysis of a high energy phosphate bond. This repeated reaction of peptide bond formation forms the back bone from which the various side-chain groups project. The linear protein chain is thus formed with a free amino group at one end and a free carboxyl group at the other end. In conventional terms, a protein chain is represented with its C–terminal amino acid on the right and the N –terminal amino acid on the left.
Structure of Proteins: Proteins are heteropolymers formed by the polymerization of amino acids. In organic chemistry, a two dimensional view of the molecule is applied while depicting the structure of the molecule. In basic biology, the structure of proteins is depicted at four hierarchical levels. (i) Primary structure (ii) Secondary structure (iii) Tertiary structure (iv) Quaternary structure Primary Structure: The sequence of amino acids or the linear arrangement of amino acids is called as the primary structure of proteins. Primary structure gives us the positional information of amino acids in a protein like which amino acid starts the chain, which is the second and so on.
In short, a protein is imagined as a line, where the left end is represented by the first amino acid and the right end is represented by the last amino acid. The first amino acid is termed as the Nterminal amino acid and the last amino acid is termed as the C-terminal amino acid.
Secondary Structure: A protein does not extend through out as a rigid linear stick. The thread is folded in the form of a helix which resembles a revolving stair case’s course. Only some portions of the protein are arranged in the form of a helix popularly known as ‘localized organization’.
Other regions of the protein thread are folded into forms like an alpha helix which is a rod like spiral structure and a beta sheet, a planar structure formed by the combination two or more beta strands. This arrangement is referred as the secondary structure.
Tertiary Structure: The third level of hierarchy is the tertiary structure. The long chain protein molecule can also be folded like a hollow woolen ball giving rise to this peculiar structure which gives a three dimensional view to a protein. Tertiary structure is absolutely necessary for the many biological activities of proteins. For monomeric proteins which consist of a single polypeptide chain, tertiary structure is the highest level of organization.
Quaternary Structure: Some proteins are an assembly of more than one polypeptide or subunits commonly known as ‘multimeric proteins’. The architecture of these proteins is in such a manner that these individual folded polypeptides or subunits are arranged one upon each other in the form of a cube or a plate etc. This arrangement which consists of two or more subunits is termed as the quaternary structure of proteins.
Adult haemoglobin consists of 4 subunits. Two of these are identical to each other. Hence two subunits of alpha type and two subunits of beta type together constitute the human haemoglobin (Hb). Proteins can themselves associated into larger assemblies which give rise to macromolecular assemblies. The protein coat of a virus is a best example of such macromolecular assemblies.