Molecular Monday: Putting the Acid in Amino Acid

Amino acids: they’re still too complicated for me. So instead, I present to you a carbonyl group.

Fb04 Carbonyl Group

A carbonyl group is composed of a single carbon atom double bonded to a single oxygen atom. The carbon still has two free bonding sites, so the carbonyl group can bond to at least one—maybe two—other chemicals.

Up next, we have a hydroxyl group.

Fb04 Hydroxyl Group

It’s a single oxygen atom bonded to a single hydrogen atom. The oxygen still has one available bonding site.

Now, let’s put the two together.

Fb04 Carboxyl Group

Let’s call this a carbonylhydroxyl group. Actually, no. Let’s not do that. Let’s cut out the middle of that word and just call it a carboxyl group, because that’s less of a mouthful. Notice, by the way, that the carbon still has one bonding site left.

Like the amines we met last Molecular Monday, carboxyl groups are free to bond with other stuff, forming larger molecules known as carboxylic acids.

Examples of carboxylic acids include acetic acid (found in vinegar), fatty acids (which I probably get too much of in my diet), and—wait for it!—amino acids!

Okay, so now that we know about carboxyl groups and amines (a.k.a. amino groups), we’re ready to start building amino acids. Right, guys?

Fb04 Amino and Carboxyl Groups

Dang it. Back to my research.

P.S.: In the process of researching today’s post, I stumbled upon a new word: zwitterion. I have no idea what a zwitterion is, but it’s now my #1 favorite word.

* * *

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Molecular Mondays. Every other Monday, I struggle valiantly to understand and explain some concept in the field of chemistry. Please note: I suck at chemistry, but I’m trying to learn. If I made a mistake, please, please, please let me know so I can get better.

4 Responses to Molecular Monday: Putting the Acid in Amino Acid

  1. You seem to be working up to organic chemistry. I had a little organic chemistry in high school, enough to know that it was hopelessly beyond me. (I barely got the naming conventions down, and as for solving chemical equations, fuhgeddaboudit.) Hope you have a better time with it than I did 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] I still have a ways to go. So far here on the blog, I’ve introduced you to amino groups and carboxyl groups. By definition, amino acids must include at least one of each of these functional groups. So […]


  3. […] acid. For today’s post, the crucial components are the amino group of one amino acid and the carboxyl group of […]


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