What is Amino Acid Synthesis?

Jessica Reed

Amino acid synthesis is the process of creating new amino acids inside an organism's cells for the body to use to make proteins necessary for survival. Living organisms constantly break down certain amino acids and compounds, then synthesize them to create the amino acids that organism needs. When an organism does not get a good diet, or has a deficiency where it cannot properly make enough of a specific amino acid, it may cause certain diseases or cause the organism to become sick.

The chemical structure of glutamine, an amino acid.
The chemical structure of glutamine, an amino acid.

The basic amino acids are organic molecules, meaning molecules that contain carbon, which can combine together to form proteins that living organisms, such as people, need to survive. An amino acid is formed when two groups, a carboxyl and an amino, join together and share a carbon atom. Living organisms constantly break down and re-create different amino acids to create the specific ones they need to function at a healthy level. Twenty amino acids exist in total, ten which are essential and ten which are non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are those an organism can create on its own, while essential amino acids are those an organism cannot make on its own and must synthesize from the foods in its diet.

The structure of lysine, an essential amino acid.
The structure of lysine, an essential amino acid.

Certain organisms, such as plants and yeast, can produce all 20 amino acids on their own. Others, like human beings, cannot and must get the remaining amino acids from the food they eat. Typically, a person's body can only produce between nine and 12 of the 20 amino acids it needs. The body uses amino acid synthesis to form the rest of the amino acids it needs from various compounds.

When a person cannot get the right foods to perform the necessary amino acid synthesis, it must find other ways to create specific proteins. Since the body cannot store amino acids, it starts attacking healthy muscles and tissue found within the body. It performs amino acid synthesis on these healthy parts to create the proteins it needs. Eventually, if the person cannot get the nutrients he needs, he will become very thin and sick, and will die from starvation or succumb to a disease.

An organism's body uses the proteins achieved from amino acid synthesis for a number of processes. The amino acids can repair and replace tissues or blood cells that have broken down over time. They're the building blocks to create a strong, healthy organism that can continue to thrive and eat foods to provide the essential amino acids it needs in addition to the non-essential amino acids produced by its body.

Barley, which contains amino acids.
Barley, which contains amino acids.

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