Amino acids: Memorizing names and classifying made easy

Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side chain that varies between different amino acids. These molecules contain the key elements of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen.

Assign the names of these amino acids to 20 different alphabets.

20 amino acids and their structures. Click to enlarge.

A : Alanine

C: Cysteine
D: Aspartate
E: Glutamate
F: Phenylalanine
G: Glycine
H: Histidine
I: Isoleucine
K: Lysine
L: Leucine
M: Methionine
N: Aspargine
P: Proline
Q: Glutamine
R: Arginine
S: Serine
T: Threonine
V: Valine
W: Tryptophan
Y: Tyrosine

How to remember:

1. Unique 1st letter:
a. Cysteine
b. Histidine
c. Isoleucine
d. Methionine
e. Valine
f: Serine

2. More than 1 leter but still 1st letter:
a. Alanine
b. Glycine
c. Leucine
d. Proline
e. Threonine

3. Phonetically suggestive:
a. Arginine (R-ginine)
b. Phenylalanine (F-enylalanine)
c. Tyrosine (tYrosine)
d. Tryptophan (W-structure of tryptophan)

4. Others:
a. Aspartate or Aspartic acid (asparDic)
b. Asparagine (aspargiN)
c. Glutamate or Glutamic acid (gluE-tamate)
d. Glutamine (Q-tamine)
e. Lysine (K is near L)

On the basis of:

A. Structure:
1. Aliphatic side chains: GAVLI
Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine
2. With OH group: STY
Serine, Threonine, Tyrosine
3. Acidic: AAGG
Aspartate, Aspargine, Glutamate, Glutamine
4. Sulphur containing: CM
Cysteine, Methionine
5. Basic: HIstory of ARGentina was Lie
Histidine, Arginine, Lysine
6. Aromatic: HTTP
Histidine, Tryptophan, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine
7. Imide:

B. Essential and Non-essential:
1. Essential: PVT TIM HALL
Phenylalanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Histidine, Arginine, Lysine, Leucine
Semi-essential are Histidine and Arginine

2. Non-essential: Rest of the 10 amino acids

C. Metabolic Fate:
1. Ketogenic: Lysine, Leucine
2. Partially Ketogenic/Glucogenic: Isoleucine and other 3 aromatic amino acids (Tyrosine, Tryptophan, Phenylalanine)
3. Glucogenic: Rest

D. Polarity:
1. Polar with no charge on R: STY: glutamine, aspargine, cysteine, glycine
2. Polar with +ve R: Arginine, Histidine, Lysine (Basic)
3. Polar with -ve R: Aspartate, Glutamate (Acidic)
4. Non-polar: Rest

About the Author

Sulabh Shrestha
Intern doctor and Medical Blogger Sulabh Shrestha

7 Comments on "Amino acids: Memorizing names and classifying made easy"

  1. Ailene Hirleman | July 15, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Reply

    I find this article very informational. It helped me to memorize all 20 amino acids for my exams. Thank you.

  2. We have made a YouTube video to share a method of remembering the structures of the 20 commonly occurring amino acids through tricks involving their single-letter abbreviations. We do not cover any amino acid chemistry in this video (like chemical properties), just the structures. We hope you find it helpful!

    • Thank you so much, your video helped me big time.. I already regret a discovered it the day before my exam, I would have shared it with my whole class.. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  3. how to memorizing essential amino acid ??

    • Use mnemonics:
      One is given above but you can use others as well:

      These Ten Valuable Amino Acids Have Long Preserved Life In Man

      For the ten essential amino acids:

      Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, Arginine, Histidine, Lysine, Phenylalanine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Methionine

  4. Lovely

  5. Thank you very much, it hellp me alot. Thank u for sharing helpful method.

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