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Thursday, April 12, 2007

What in the world are peptides?

Sometimes my assignments are adventures in education. Such was the case with this one.

Can any of you define the word peptide? I vaguely remember learning about peptides in biology, and I thought they had something to do with proteins or amino acids, but that was all I could remember. I obviously didn't retain what I had "learned"!

It turns out that my shaky recollections were correct as far as they went. According to Wikipedia, "Peptides (from the Greek πεπτος, "digestible") are the family of short molecules formed from the linking, in a defined order, of various α-amino acids. The link between one amino acid residue and the next is an amide bond and is sometimes referred to as a peptide bond."

I learned that peptides can be used to create antibodies against the protein(s) from which it was created. The information was not clear whether that application was for human or animal use, but I can see how such antibodies could prove beneficial for people whose bodies have problems with certain proteins.

Another use for peptides involves the use of mass spectrometry. Prior to this assignment, I had only heard about the mass spectrometer on the television show NCIS. A mass spectrometer provides an analysis of the individual components of a substance. In this application, proteins are identified by the masses and sequence of its peptides.

The manufacture of synthetic peptides is vital for studying protein structure and function. Synthetic peptides allow researchers to see where interactions occur between proteins and peptides. Since scientists can identify the reactions, they can create inhibitor peptides to eradicate said reactions. Possible applications include the inhibition of cancer proteins and other diseases.

As you can see, I learned a lot about peptides because of this assignment. Thank you, payu2blog, for enriching both my pocketbook and my mind!