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Amino acids are biologically important organic compounds composed of amine and carboxylic acid functional groups, along with a side-chain specific to each amino acid.

Uses in industry

Amino acids are used for a variety of applications in industry, but their main use is as additives to animal feed. This is necessary, since many of the bulk components of these feeds, such as soybeans, either have low levels or lack some of the essential amino acids: Lysine, methionine, threonine, and tryptophan are most important in the production of these feeds. In this industry, amino acids are also used to chelate metal cations in order to improve the absorption of minerals from supplements, which may be required to improve the health or production of these animals.

The food industry is also a major consumer of amino acids, in particular, glutamic acid, which is used as a flavor enhancer,[69] and Aspartame (aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester) as a low-calorie artificial sweetener. Similar technology to that used for animal nutrition is employed in the human nutrition industry to alleviate symptoms of mineral deficiencies, such as anemia, by improving mineral absorption and reducing negative side effects from inorganic mineral supplementation.

The chelating ability of amino acids has been used in fertilizers for agriculture to facilitate the delivery of minerals to plants in order to correct mineral deficiencies, such as iron chlorosis. These fertilizers are also used to prevent deficiencies from occurring and improving the overall health of the plants. The remaining production of amino acids is used in the synthesis of drugs and cosmetics.

Expanded genetic code

Since 2001, 40 non-natural amino acids have been added into protein by creating a unique codon (recoding) and a corresponding transfer-RNA:aminoacyl – tRNA-synthetase pair to encode it with diverse physicochemical and biological properties in order to be used as a tool to exploring protein structure and function or to create novel or enhanced proteins.


Nullomers are codons which in theory code for an amino acid, however in nature there is a selective bias against using this codon in favor of another, for example bacteria prefer to use CGA instead of AGA to code for arginine.This creates some sequences which do not appear in the genome, this characteristic can be taken advantage of and used to create new selective cancer fighting drugs] and to prevent cross contamination of DNA samples from crime scene investigations.

Chemical building blocks

Amino acids are important as low-cost feedstocks. These compounds are used in chiral pool synthesis as enantiomerically pure building blocks.

Amino acids have been investigated as precursors chiral catalysts, e.g., for asymmetric hydrogenation reactions, although no commercial applications exist.

Biodegradable plastics

Amino acids are under development as components of a range of biodegradable polymers. These materials have applications as environmentally friendly packaging and in medicine in drug delivery and the construction of prosthetic implants. These polymers include polypeptides, polyamides, polyesters, polysulfides, and polyurethanes with amino acids either forming part of their main chains or bonded as side-chains. These modifications alter the physical properties and reactivities of the polymers.[81] An interesting example of such materials is polyaspartate, a water-soluble biodegradable polymer that may have applications in disposable diapers and agriculture.Due to its solubility and ability to chelate metal ions, polyaspartate is also being used as a biodegradeable anti-scaling agent and a corrosion inhibitor.[83][84] In addition, the aromatic amino acid tyrosine is being developed as a possible replacement for toxic phenols such as bisphenol A in the manufacture of polycarbonates.