Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and they also serve as neurotransmitters. The amino acids that also serve as neurotransmitters include the following:
- y-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Each amino acid has several key ingredients, as the picture demonstrates. The parts that make up an amino acid include the amino group (the NH3+), a hydrocarbon, a carboxyl group (COO-) and an R group (which is like a wildcard: anything can be attached to there.)
Each amino acid has a three letter code based on their RNA structure, and these come together to form a peptide structure. Each of the codes derive from their RNA, which as this picture shows, it is made up of four base pairs: A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and U (uracil). This differs from DNA, which has T (thymine) included as a base pair: simply substitute T for U when you are talking about single-stranded RNA as opposed to double-stranded DNA.
Glutamate (or glutamic acid) plays an important role in memory and learning, and it also allows a long-term transmission of information via neurotransmitters.
Aspartate (or aspartic acid) is involved in the process of biosynthesis, which basically is the formation of a chemical compound by a living organism.
Glycine (GGU, GGC, GGA and GGG)
Glycine serves as both a precursor to proteins and a building block of many organic products. As a neurotransmitter, it acts as an inhibitor of the CNS, particularly within the retina, spinal cord and the brainstem.
Serine (UCU, UCC, UCA, UCG, AGU and AGC)
Serine plays several key roles within the body, and they include:
- Being an important part of metabolism, and is also the precursor to several other amino acids including glycine and cysteine and tryptophan. ,
- Serine also plays a role as a catalyst for many enzymes.
- It also creates purines and pyrimidines, which are part of the building blocks of DNA.
GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the (adult) mammalian nervous system, and in humans, it plays a role in regulating our muscle tone. In children, GABA actually plays an excitatory role.