Peptides

In addition to free amino acids and proteins, significant amounts of amino acids are present in physiological systems as small peptides. One of the most important is the tripeptide glutathione (7-glutamylcysteinylglycine), which acts as an intracellular antioxidant.

Dipeptides found within the cell include carnosine (/3-alanylhistidine) and its methylated derivatives anserine and balenine. These may act as buffers; no other physiological role has been identified.

Peptides are also used in food systems. For example, cysteine-containing peptides, or cysteine itself, are used as improvers in bread making to speed up the cross-linking that is required to give the bread its texture.

Another peptide used in the food industry is aspartame, which is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is a very powerful sweetener that does not have the bitter aftertaste of some other intense sweeteners.

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