Peptide Bonds

Peptide Glossary

Peptide Bonds


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Defining the Peptide Bond

A peptide bond is a specific type of covalent bond that forms between two amino acids. It occurs when the carboxyl group of one amino acid reacts with the amino group of another, releasing a water molecule in what is known as a condensation reaction. The bond formed is a CO-NH bond, leading to the creation of an amide molecule.

Structural Characteristics of Peptide Bonds

X-ray diffraction studies have revealed that peptide bonds are rigid and planar, largely due to resonance interactions. The electron pair of the amide nitrogen can delocalize into the carbonyl oxygen, influencing the bond’s structure. Notably, the N–C bond in a peptide bond is shorter than the N–Cα bond, while the C=O bond is longer than typical carbonyl bonds. Peptides usually adopt a trans configuration rather than cis, as it is more energetically favorable and avoids steric interactions.

The Formation Process of Peptide Bonds

The formation of a peptide bond requires the correct orientation of amino acid molecules, allowing the carboxylic acid group of one amino acid to react with the amine group of another. This interaction can create a dipeptide, the smallest peptide consisting of just two amino acids. The process can continue, linking any number of amino acids in chains to form peptides, polypeptides, or proteins, depending on the number of amino acids involved. For detailed distinctions between peptides, polypeptides, and proteins, our Peptides Vs. Proteins page offers

Hydrolysis and Peptide Bonds

Peptide bonds are subject to hydrolysis, a chemical reaction with water that can break these bonds. While hydrolysis of peptide bonds is inherently slow, these bonds are susceptible to breakage in the presence of water. Enzymes in living organisms can both form and break down peptide bonds, playing a crucial role in biological processes. Many hormones, antibiotics, antitumor agents, and neurotransmitters are peptides or proteins, distinguished by the number of amino acids they contain.

Polarity and Rigidity of Peptide Bonds

The structure of a peptide bond suggests potential for free rotation around the bond between the carbonyl carbon and amide nitrogen. However, the presence of a lone pair of electrons on the nitrogen near the carbon-oxygen bond creates a resonance structure that limits this rotation. This resonance structure, contributing to the peptide bond’s partial double-bond character (approximately 40%), renders the bond rigid. The peptide bond also exhibits a permanent dipole due to this electron distribution, with the oxygen carrying a -0.28 charge and the nitrogen a +0.28 charge.

Understanding peptide bonds is crucial for grasping the fundamentals of molecular biology and biochemistry. Their unique characteristics underpin the structure and function of proteins, making them essential to various biological processes and pharmaceutical applications.”

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