Proteins are large molecules composed of amino acid subunits. Since there are twenty different types of amino acids that can be used in constructing a given protein, the variety of protein structures is immense.This variety allows each type of protein to perform very specific functions.

The enormous diversity of protein structure results from the fact that there are twenty different building blocks—the amino acids—that can be used to form a protein. These amino acids, as will be described in the next section, are joined together to form a chain. Because of chemical interactions between the amino acids, the chain can twist and fold in a specific manner. The sequence of amino acids in a protein, and thus the specific structure of the protein, is determined by genetic information. This genetic information for protein synthesis is contained in another category of organic molecules, the nucleic acids, which includes the macromolecules DNA and RNA. The structure of nucleic acids is described in the next section, and the mechanisms by which the genetic information they encode directs protein synthesis are described in chapter 3.

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