Molecular biology // is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry. Molecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between the different types of DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis as well as learning how these interactions are regulated.
Writing in Nature in 1961, William Astbury described molecular biology as:
Amino acids (//, //, or //) are biologically important organic compounds composed of amine (-NH2) and carboxylic acid (-COOH) functional groups, along with a side-chain specific to each amino acid. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, though other elements are found in the side-chains of certain amino acids. About 500 amino acids are known and can be classified in many ways. Structurally they can be classified according to the functional groups' locations as alpha- (α-), beta- (β-), gamma- (γ-) or delta- (δ-) amino acids; other categories relate to polarity, pH level, and side chain group type (aliphatic, acyclic, aromatic, containing hydroxyl or sulfur, etc.) In the form of proteins, amino acids comprise the second largest component (after water) of human muscles, cells and other tissues. Outside proteins, amino acids perform critical roles in processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.
Amino acids having both the amine and carboxylic acid groups attached to the first (alpha-) carbon atom have particular importance in biochemistry. They are known as 2-, alpha-, or α-amino acids (generic formula H2NCHRCOOH in most cases where R is an organic substituent known as a "side-chain"); often the term "amino acid" is used to refer specifically to these. They include the 22 proteinogenic ("protein-building") amino acids which combine into peptide chains ("polypeptides") to form the building blocks of a vast array of proteins. These are all L-stereoisomers ("left-handed" isomers) although a few D-amino acids ("right-handed") occur in bacterial envelopes and some antibiotics. Twenty of the proteinogenic amino acids are encoded directly by triplet codons in the genetic code and are known as "standard" amino acids. The other two ("non-standard" or "non-canonical") are pyrrolysine (found in methanogenic organisms and other eukaryotes) and selenocysteine (present in many noneukaryotes as well as most eukaryotes). For example, 25 human proteins include selenocysteine (Sec) in their primary structure, and the structurally characterized enzymes (selenoenzymes) employ Sec as the catalytic moiety in their active sites. Pyrrolysine and selenocysteine are encoded via variant codons; for example, selenocysteine is encoded by stop codon and SECIS element. Codon–tRNA combinations not found in nature can also be used to "expand" the genetic code and create novel proteins known as alloproteins incorporating non-proteinogenic amino acids.
The nitrogen cycle is the process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms. This transformation can be carried out through both biological and physical processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification. The majority of Earth's atmosphere (78%) is nitrogen, making it the largest pool of nitrogen. However, atmospheric nitrogen has limited availability for biological use, leading to a scarcity of usable nitrogen in many types of ecosystems. The nitrogen cycle is of particular interest to ecologists because nitrogen availability can affect the rate of key ecosystem processes, including primary production and decomposition. Human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers, and release of nitrogen in wastewater have dramatically altered the global nitrogen cycle]citation needed[.
A 2011 study found that nitrogen from rocks may also be a significant source of nitrogen, that had not previously been included in most calculations and statistics.
An amino acid-based formula, also known as an elemental formula, is a type of hypoallergenic infant formula made from individual amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and together they form the protein requirements in formula needed for growth and development. The amino acids are in the simplest form, making it easy for the body to process and digest. Neocate, EleCare, and Nutramigen AA are the more commonly encountered brands of amino acid-based formula in the US.
Because infants and children have different nutritional needs, amino acid-based formulas are typically formulated either for infants 0–1 years of age or for children 1–10 years of age.
Protein sequencing is a technique to determine the amino acid sequence of a protein, as well as which conformation the protein adopts and the extent to which it is complexed with any non-peptide molecules. Discovering the structures and functions of proteins in living organisms is an important tool for understanding cellular processes, and allows drugs that target specific metabolic pathways to be invented more easily.
The two major direct methods of protein sequencing are mass spectrometry and the Edman degradation reaction. It is also possible to generate an amino acid sequence from the DNA or mRNA sequence encoding the protein, if this is known. However, there are a number of other reactions which can be used to gain more limited information about protein sequences and can be used as preliminaries to the aforementioned methods of sequencing or to overcome specific inadequacies within them.