THE PROTEIN THAT HOLDS US TOGETHER.

ASANTEWAA BEATRICE
ASANTEWAA BEATRICE
‌‌Most often, we think proteins are the nutrients from the food we eat. But nope, proteins are long-chain molecules inside the human cells that perform diverse tasks. Human cells contain over 30,000 to 100,000 different types of proteins performing a specific vital job. Some are enzymes that catalyze reactions to allow cells to grow and divide, Others are antibodies that fight against foreign antigens.  But, in this article, we are talking about a structural protein that holds us together: Collagen.

‌‌For a better understanding of the main topic, Let's unravel what protein is.

WHAT IS PROTEIN?

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‌‌Proteins are complex molecules that play many vital roles in the body. In simple terms, Proteins are made up of thousands of smaller units named amino acids, which are linked in long chains. Now, there is a bond that joined these amino acids together to form the chain called a peptide bond.

Don't forget that amino acids are molecules that combine to form protein, and they are mainly composed of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen.

So, the peptide bond joins the carbon group of one amino acid to the nitrogen group of another amino acid and release water.

Illustration of a peptide bond between two amino acids

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THE STRUCTURE OF AMINO ACIDS.

The protein in the body is made up of a variety of some twenty subunits called amino acids that have carbon as the central atom attached to the nitrogen group that has gained an atom and the carbon group that has lost an atom. Also, the central carbon is linked to a hydrogen atom and a side chain( R- group).

Structure of Amino acids

Now, out of the twenty common amino acids known, nineteen of them have a central carbon atom attached to a carboxyl group, nitrogen group, and‌‌ tied to a hydrogen atom and side chain. Therefore, they are called primary amines. And the remaining one is called a secondary amine. An example is Glycine.‌‌ Forthwith, the folding and the arrangement of these amino acids form the different kinds of proteins for a specific role in the body. And two important structures form when folding.

  1. Several sectors of the protein fold up into snake-like formations called “alpha-helices".
  2. Other proteins fold into zig-zag structures called “beta-sheets,” which look like the bends of a paper fan.‌‌                                                These two structures also interact to form more complex structures. And the complex structures permit proteins to perform their distinct jobs in the cell. Some of them when rooted in a cell membrane, create a hole that allows traffic into and out of cells. So, collagen is one of the protein folds that hold us together.

COLLAGEN.

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‌‌Collagen is a protein that provides mechanical strength to bones, skin, blood vessels, and tendons. They provide multicellular organisms like humans with their outer covering. That means they are the main building block of our skin. However, the collagen of the skin can expand in all directions based on their tensile strength, transparency to its flexibility. For example, the corneas of the eyes are composed of very transparent collagen, while the blood vessels are flexible.‌‌So, how come such a diverse structure is comprised of a single protein?‌‌The reason is simple.  Different collagen is composed of 3 similar dimensional structures. Collagen is of twenty unique but almost related proteins in which the variations in the amino acid classification of these different collagen proteins enable them to perform a combination of tasks in the human body.

Structure of the collagen triple helix

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‌‌From the start, we defined a peptide bond as the bond that joins the amino acids together to form a chain. Note that, a combination of only two amino acids is called dipeptides; three of them are called tripeptides; if there are more than 10 in a chain, they are called polypeptides; and if there are more than 50, they are known as proteins.‌‌ Now, collagen is developed based on three left-handed polypeptide helices that are coiled around one another to crop up a superhelix called a triple helix. Any of the individual peptide chains of collagen is a left-handed helix but they are tied around one another in the right-handed sense.

Every third amino acid in the collagen sequence is glycine which is vital to the structure because the triple-stranded helix forms due to interchain hydrogen bonding. Thus, every third amino acid on one strand is near pinch with the other two strands. Also,  glycine is the only amino acid with a side chain sufficient for the space enabled by the triple-stranded structure.‌‌

COLLAGEN SYNTHESIS.‌‌

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The body makes its collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids naturally. What builds the various types of protein in the body, including collagen, is the amino acid as said earlier.‌‌However, we get the particular building blocks for collagen by eating a diet balanced of protein-rich foods and a variety of fresh produce. for example, beef, nuts, legumes, and so on.‌‌

The reason is that a diet high in natural fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants, which defend the body from oxidative problems that can reduce collagen. Also, collagen production in the body decreases naturally as we age due to excessive sun exposure, consumption of the wrong food, and smoking.‌‌Collagen is the primary structural component of connective tissues of which there are 28 different types. each type is classified based on its amino acid arrangement.‌‌

TYPES OF COLLAGEN.‌‌

Roughly 90% of the collagen in the body is type 1, which is a source in the  Interior organs, the organic parts of bones, and the skin according to Healthline.

The remaining collagen in the body is made up of the succeeding types:

Type 2: This type of collagen is present in the cartilage‌‌

Type 3:  It is found in the bone marrow and some tissues like the lymphoid tissue which supports organ and muscle structure.‌‌

Type 4: They are found in the basement membrane( such as the layers of your skin).‌‌

THE BOTTOM LINE.‌‌

Protein is broken down into amino acids whenever we consume protein-rich food. And then reassembled into different proteins like collagen that provides a structure for many parts of the body.‌‌Interestingly, the foods we eat can assist our body make this protein and at the same time destroyed this collagen.‌‌

What do l mean?‌‌

Strawberries and citrus fruits contain a large amount of vitamin C which helps in the production of Procollagen( thus, a combination of two amino acids). But, excessive intake of sugar damages collagen because it interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself.‌‌So, collagen has many beautiful benefits to the body which can hold us together for a long time if we checked out our dirt.

Question of the day.

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‌‌TAKE AWARDS

Our body uses different amino acids to build keratin — some of which can be found in collagen. Mention only one amino acid found in the collagen.‌‌Answers should be submitted in the comments box. Let's have fun as we read.‌‌

REFERENCES

  1. "Collagen — What Is It and What Is It Good For?" Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen
  2. "Protein Folding: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Science in the News "Retrieved from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2010/issue65/

ASANTEWAA BEATRICE

I am an artless lady who seeks to improve the health care of children in deprived areas with little knowledge l have. I love to write, motivate, and inspire people with academic challenges.