How Proteins Are Made

Protein is essential for life and performs many critical functions in the body. It builds and repairs muscle, helps transport oxygen and other nutrients throughout the body and provides structure for tissues and organs. Protein also helps turn key players in the immune system (T cells, B cells and antibodies) into germ fighters that spot and kill harmful organisms. It also allows us to see in the dark and helps plants create sugars and produce oxygen during photosynthesis.

Proteins are made from building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, and the specific combination of amino acid ‘letters’ in each protein is determined by its gene code. The sequence of three adjacent amino acid ‘letters’ in the genome is read by a molecule called RNA and then translated into proteins in a process known as protein synthesis.

Amino acids are joined together by peptide bonds to form polypeptide chains. The resulting chains can then be twisted into different shapes, which determines a protein’s function. Interactions between proteins are guided by their shape, as well as their chemical properties. For example, positively- and negatively-charged amino acids cluster together, while hydrophobic chains fold away from water.

Some of the amino acids can be made in your body, while others must be consumed as part of a healthy diet. The nine amino acids that cannot be made by your body are called essential amino acids and you need to get them from foods such as poultry, beef and fish (including the skin of salmon), dairy products, beans and peas (adzuki, black, fava and lentils) and soybeans and other soy peptides uk

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