Proline, Valine and Methionine

From first to last it took over 100 years for the 20 common amino acids to be discovered and named (not always in that order). This century straddled the invention of the systematic naming conventions we know today, and the ability of chemists to elucidate the structures of molecules made drastic improvements. So, by the… Continue reading Proline, Valine and Methionine

Glycine, Tyrosine, Serine and Lysine

For some of the amino acids, establishing the stories behind their names was a surprisingly difficult process. A mixture of guesswork, lazy reading, and oversimplification has led to incorrect explanations being present all over the internet. It’s thanks to these tricky cases that I have become quite adept at using Google Translate to read 19th… Continue reading Glycine, Tyrosine, Serine and Lysine

Leucine, Isoleucine and Arginine

Anyone who has done even a small amount of organic chemistry in the lab will know that “white solid” is an incredibly common description of an organic compound. Given their ubiquity, one may think it a little short-sighted to name such compounds after this less-than-unique property. Nevertheless, that does indeed seem to be the origin… Continue reading Leucine, Isoleucine and Arginine

Amino Acid One-Letter Codes

Proteins structures are complicated (really complicated), and the code we use to describe their sequences needs to reflect this by being concise and easy to understand. As scientists became able to identify and synthesise longer and longer sequences of amino acids, the notation they used to characterise them had to adapt, evolve, and (crucially) condense.… Continue reading Amino Acid One-Letter Codes

Acetylene (and Hydrocarbon Suffixes)

In a previous post on this blog, I discussed the possibility for confusion among modern students of chemistry due to older, generic names of organic molecules being incongruous with the systematic naming conventions we use today. The example I used to make this point was acetone, which unlike acetic acid, acetylene, and acetaldehyde, contains three carbons… Continue reading Acetylene (and Hydrocarbon Suffixes)

Asparagine, Aspartate, Glutamine and Glutamate

There are four amino acids that are intrinsically linked by the similarity in their structures, and unsurprisingly, the stories behind their names are just as intertwined. I am of course referring to the compounds with the carboxylic acid and primary amide side chains: asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamine and glutamic acid. Asparagine Asparagine was the first… Continue reading Asparagine, Aspartate, Glutamine and Glutamate