Proteins As Building Blocks and Their Growing Market Demand

July 30, 2022

There are many applications for proteins in the marketplace, which makes their use in these products increasingly important. From foams to emulsions, proteins combine water and other molecules and have hydrodynamic properties that depend on intermolecular interactions. Their surface properties make them ideal for various applications, including food, coatings, and textiles. These qualities make proteins a valuable building block in many applications, such as the manufacturing of synthetic polymers.

Primary structure

Proteins are macromolecules of long chains of amino acids linked together with amide bonds. They are folded according to their amino acid sequence and are often surrounded by water or a plasma membrane. In addition to water, proteins also contain a nonpolar hydrocarbon tail. Their tertiary structure consists of hydrogen bonds that link R groups. Hydrophilic amino acids are the most abundant ones.

 

Amino acids are essential to human health and play critical roles in the body. They play vital roles in organ structure, function, and regulation. They are large molecules composed of hundreds of amino acids linked in a specific order. The human body requires twenty different amino acids. The sequence of these amino acids determines how the protein will function. The genetic code of the cell determines its amino acid sequence.

 

A polypeptide chain contains a unique sequence of amino acids determined by the gene that codes for the protein. Any change in this sequence results in a different amino acid added to the chain, altering its structure and function. The substitution of amino acids results in a difference in the form of a protein, as in the case of haemoglobin. In the case of haemoglobin, two alpha chains, one beta chain, and a total of 600 amino acids make up the molecule.

 

Side-chain interactions

While the side chain interaction between amino acids plays a vital role in protein structure and function, little is known about how the side chains interact with the backbone. Many studies assume that side-chain-side-chain interactions are the dominant interaction between the building blocks. However, limited studies have provided evidence that side-chain-backbone interactions play the dominant role. These interactions may result from the presence of restrictive constraints or the ability to form noncovalent contacts.

 

As part of the overall analysis of side-chain interactions, the authors used the extended conformational state of the protein as the reference structure. However, this state may not perfectly represent the denatured state. As a result, they estimated the electrostatic and folding energies based on the average number of side-chain atomic contacts between the protein and the backbone.

 

The primary role of side-chain-backbone interactions is to stabilise the folded structure. These interactions also have a secondary effect. The electrostatic energies from side-chain interactions act as an unspecific folding force stabilising the native system. Further, side-chain-backbone interactions are an essential source of protein information. By understanding the mechanism behind these interactions, scientists will be better able to design better drugs.

 

To achieve the best possible side-chain-backbone interactions, the researchers developed a new algorithm called ChiRotor, which uses minimal combinatorial search to optimise side-chain position with the backbone. By utilising the ChiRotor algorithm, the side-chain conformation can be predicted with high accuracy. But it is not that simple! Despite its complexities, the approach can help researchers better understand protein structure.

 

Applications

A collaborative research team in Japan has developed artificial proteins with the ability to self-assemble into biological structures. These proteins could lead to leading-edge biotechnology applications. These proteins contain the specific functionalities needed to carry out certain tasks. These artificial proteins were created using the synthetic method known as synthetic biology. In 2012, the team developed a simple artificial protein, WA20, which is stable and self-assembles into multiple nanostructures.

 

The ring structure is a representative example of the bi-dimensional protein design. The ring structure is bidimensionally assembled in a cyclic arrangement. The pore size of the protein is controlled by the relationship between oligomer state and pore diameter. The large pore size can cause problems in stabilising interaction density. In contrast, the alpha-helix ring structure is straightforward due to a specific backbone type by the cramp.

 

Natural proteins are composed of polypeptide chains consisting of amino acids. The amino acid sequences are linked by peptide bonds and perform several functions. Proteins are the building blocks of all cells in all living organisms. DNA and RNA are molecules that encode information essential for life. Applications of proteins as building blocks are numerous, and they can be found in all organisms. There are twenty amino acids in nature, each of which plays a vital role in the function of a living organism.

 

Today, human proteins are utilised in various sectors. These applications include agriculture, biotechnology, and industry. Enzymes, for example, can be added to animal feed to increase their efficiency, reduce feed costs, and improve the environment. Enzymes, a type of enzyme, are also used as anticoagulants. Human proteins play a significant role in therapeutic medicine. They are used to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions.

 

Growth in acceptance of insects and plants as protein sources

Despite its beneficial environmental impact, insects remain an unusual meat alternative for many Western consumers. Likewise, plant-based alternatives have fewer barriers to adoption, although consumer perceptions remain limited, particularly regarding taste and perceived healthfulness. A recent study evaluated consumer attitudes towards insects and plants as protein sources, their nutritional value, and their environmental impact. The researchers also assessed the likelihood of consumers purchasing the products.

 

While there are still significant challenges to overcome, the research on insects and plants as protein sources has increased in recent years. Novel protein sources must provide sufficient nutrients and essential amino acids for human consumption while being cost-effective. Insect protein comes from their exoskeletons, which contain significant amounts of fibre and chitin. Chitin is a biopolymer found in nature and is considered one of the six elements of life. Chitin can account for up to 18 per cent of an insect's body surface, which is more than twice as high as a cow's milk or a chicken's womb.

 

The benefits of insects as protein sources are numerous. They can significantly reduce the land required for livestock feed and could even reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, insects could contribute to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Platform of Insects For Food and Feed states that insects contain 82% protein and have a diverse amino acid profile. One of the most significant barriers to the widespread use of insect protein is the different nutritional profiles and handling of antinutritional elements. However, this may soon change.

 

Feeding insects and plants as protein sources are still primarily considered an exotic luxury among Westerners. However, new research suggests that consumer acceptance is increasing. Despite the negative perception, consumers are increasingly willing to pay for these products than fresh meat and eggs. This is a promising new protein source for people concerned about their diets. The development of these products is mainly due to government initiatives and education.

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