An amino acid contains both amino and acid groups. The names for amino acids are largely derived from Greek (e.g., glycine from the Greek word ''glykos,'' meaning sweet). Over 300 amino acids occur in nature, but only 20 serve as building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are substrates for the synthesis of many biologically active substances (including NO, polyamines, glutathione, nucleic acids, hormones, creatine, and neurotransmitters) that regulate metabolic pathways essential to the life and productivity of animals. Their abnormal metabolism disturbs whole-body homeostasis, impairs animal growth and development, and may even cause death. Thus, knowledge of amino acid biochemistry and nutrition is of enormous importance for both animal agriculture and medicine.

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