What are the monomers of protein?

What are the monomers of protein?


Proteins are essential macromolecules that play a crucial role in various biological processes. They are involved in structural support, enzymatic reactions, transport, signaling, and many other functions. But have you ever wondered what makes up proteins at their most basic level? The answer lies in the monomers of proteins. In this article, we will explore the monomers of proteins and understand their significance in protein structure and function.

Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Proteins

Amino acids are the monomers of proteins. They are organic compounds that contain an amino group (-NH2), a carboxyl group (-COOH), and a side chain (R group) attached to a central carbon atom. There are 20 different amino acids commonly found in proteins, each with a unique side chain that gives it distinct properties.

Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids: Amino acids can be classified into two categories: essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be obtained from dietary sources. Non-essential amino acids, on the other hand, can be synthesized by the body itself.

Peptide Bonds: Linking Amino Acids

When two amino acids come together, they form a peptide bond. The amino group of one amino acid reacts with the carboxyl group of another, releasing a molecule of water in the process. This reaction, known as a condensation reaction or dehydration synthesis, creates a covalent bond between the two amino acids, resulting in the formation of a dipeptide.

Polypeptides: Chains of Amino Acids: As more amino acids are added through peptide bond formation, a chain of amino acids called a polypeptide is formed. Polypeptides can vary in length, ranging from just a few amino acids to hundreds or even thousands of amino acids.

Primary Structure: The Linear Sequence of Amino Acids

The primary structure of a protein refers to the linear sequence of amino acids in a polypeptide chain. The specific sequence of amino acids is determined by the genetic code encoded in DNA. This sequence is crucial as it determines the protein’s overall structure and function.

Secondary Structure: Folding and Helical Arrangements

The primary structure of a protein can fold into specific patterns known as secondary structures. The two most common secondary structures are the alpha helix and the beta sheet. In an alpha helix, the polypeptide chain forms a right-handed helical structure stabilized by hydrogen bonds between the amino acids. In a beta sheet, the polypeptide chain folds back and forth, forming a sheet-like structure.

Tertiary Structure: Three-Dimensional Conformation

The tertiary structure of a protein refers to its three-dimensional conformation. It is determined by the interactions between the amino acid side chains (R groups) in the polypeptide chain. These interactions can include hydrogen bonds, disulfide bonds, hydrophobic interactions, and electrostatic interactions. The tertiary structure is crucial for the protein’s overall function.

Quaternary Structure: Multiple Polypeptide Chains

Some proteins are composed of multiple polypeptide chains, each with its own tertiary structure. The arrangement and interaction of these chains form the quaternary structure of the protein. The quaternary structure is important for proteins that require multiple subunits to function effectively.


In summary, the monomers of proteins are amino acids. These organic compounds come together through peptide bond formation to create polypeptides, which can fold into various secondary structures. The interactions between amino acid side chains determine the tertiary structure, and in some cases, multiple polypeptide chains interact to form the quaternary structure. Understanding the monomers of proteins is fundamental to comprehending their structure and function.


– Nelson, D. L., Cox, M. M. (2017). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. W.H. Freeman and Company.
– Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., Gatto, G. J. (2015). Stryer’s Biochemistry. W.H. Freeman and Company.