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Facts about Proteins For Kids


Proteins perform a vast array of functions within living organisms, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, DNA replication, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules from one location to another. Proteins differ from one another primarily in their sequence of amino acids, which is dictated by the nucleotide sequence of their genes, and which usually results in protein folding into a specific three-dimensional structure that determines its activity.

  • A linear chain of amino acid residues is called a polypeptide.
  • In general, the genetic code specifies 20 standard amino acids; however, in certain organisms the genetic code can include selenocysteine and—in certain archaea—pyrrolysine.
  • Like other biological macromolecules such as polysaccharides and nucleic acids, proteins are essential parts of organisms and participate in virtually every process within cells.
  • Many proteins are enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and are vital to metabolism.
  • Proteins also have structural or mechanical functions, such as actin and myosin in muscle and the proteins in the cytoskeleton, which form a system of scaffolding that maintains cell shape.
  • Proteins are also necessary in animals’ diets, since animals cannot synthesize all the amino acids they need and must obtain essential amino acids from food.
  • The side chains of the standard amino acids, detailed in the list of standard amino acids, have a great variety of chemical structures and properties; it is the combined effect of all of the amino acid side chains in a protein that ultimately determines its three-dimensional structure and its chemical reactivity.
  • Once linked in the protein chain, an individual amino acid is called a residue, and the linked series of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygenatoms are known as the main chain or protein backbone.
  • Polypeptide can refer to any single linear chain of amino acids, usually regardless of length, but often implies an absence of a defined conformation.
  • Chemical synthesis is inefficient for polypeptides longer than about 300 amino acids, and the synthesized proteins may not readily assume their native tertiary structure.
  • Proteins can be informally divided into three main classes, which correlate with typical tertiary structures: globular proteins, fibrous proteins, and membrane proteins.
  • Protein structure prediction methods attempt to provide a means of generating a plausible structure for proteins whose structures have not been experimentally determined.