Introduction. Amino Acids and a Few Early Paradigmatic Peptides
Today, as we are approaching the end of the 20th century, research in chemistry of natural products can look back on two hundred successful years. Organic chemistry, the chemistry of living matter has dealt, since the beginning of its systematic development, with the isolation and analysis of simple natural products. Substances, that became conspicuous on account of their taste, color, odor or some biological activity stood at the focus of interest. As the skills of chemists increased, they turned to more complex problems, such as the structure and chemistry of fats, sugars, or the building components of nucleic acids. Thus began the study of natural products of greater molecular weight. Proteins, the functional molecules of all life processes, belong to this category. They initially appeared as most unsuited objectives of research: many are insoluble in water (keratin from horn, hair and hide; collagen from tendon; silk), the soluble ones, were usually obtained, according to the methods at hand, in non-homogeneous form not as crystalline materials, but as ill-defined substances with indeterminable molecular weight. Peptides, building components of proteins, while more accessible to chemical manipulations, were found in nature in concentrations too low to stimulate systematic chemical studies until the turn of the century.
KeywordsGlycine Cysteine Proline Polypeptide Thiol
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