Peptide bond

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This article is about the peptide link found within biological molecules, such as proteins. A similar article for synthetic molecules is being created. Although the atoms involved are the same, the terms amide link and peptide link cannot be used interchangeably.

A peptide bond (amide bond) is a covalent chemical bond formed between two molecules when the carboxyl group of one molecule reacts with the amino group of the other molecule, thereby releasing a molecule of water (H2O). This is a dehydration synthesis reaction (also known as a condensation reaction), and usually occurs between amino acids. The resulting C(O)NH bond is called a peptide bond, and the resulting molecule is an amide. The four-atom functional group -C(=O)NH- is called a peptide link. Polypeptides and proteins are chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds, as is the backbone of PNA.

A peptide bond can be broken by amide hydrolysis (the adding of water). The peptide bonds in proteins are metastable, meaning that in the presence of water they will break spontaneously, releasing 2-4 kcal/mol [1] of free energy, but this process is extremely slow. In living organisms, the process is facilitated by enzymes. Living organisms also employ enzymes to form peptide bonds; this process requires free energy. The wavelength of absorbance for a peptide bond is 190-230 nm.[2]


Resonance forms of the peptide group

The amide group has two resonance forms, which confer several important properties. First, it stabilizes the group by roughly 20 kcal/mol, making it less reactive than many similar groups (such as esters). The resonance suggests that the amide group has a partial double bond character, estimated at 40% under typical conditions. The peptide group is uncharged at all normal pH values, but its double-bonded resonance form gives it an unusually large dipole moment, roughly 3.5 Debye (0.7 electron-angstrom). These dipole moments can line up in certain secondary structures (such as the α-helix), producing a large net dipole.

The partial double bond character can be strengthened or weakened by modifications that favor one resonance form over another. For example, the double-bonded form is disfavored in hydrophobic environments, because of its charge. Conversely, donating a hydrogen bond to the amide oxygen or accepting a hydrogen bond from the amide nitrogen should favor the double-bonded form, because the hydrogen bond should be stronger to the charged form than to the uncharged, single-bonded form. By contrast, donating a hydrogen bond to an amide nitrogen in an X-Pro peptide bond should favor the single-bonded form; donating it to the double-bonded form would give the nitrogen five quasi-covalent bonds! (See Figure 3.) Similarly, a strongly electronegative substituent (such as fluorine) near the amide nitrogen favors the single-bonded form, by competing with the amide oxygen to "steal" an electron from the amide nitrogen (See Figure 4.)

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