With our new interactive protein alphabet, you can type your first and last name, or any two words, and see them spelled out in colorful 3D shapes!
Proteins are molecules that play important roles in virtually every activity in the body. They form hair and fingernails, carry oxygen in the blood, enable muscle movement, and much more. Proteins are like long necklaces with differently shaped “beads.” Each bead is a small molecule called an amino acid. Some proteins have a few dozen amino acids while others have many thousands of amino acids wound together.
As a protein is made, its strands of amino acids twist, bend, and fold into specific shapes. Each protein’s shape allows it to perform its unique job. These shapes vary widely, and some even look like letters of the alphabet.
The protein alphabet letters were identified by Mark Howarth, Ph.D., from the Department of Biochemistry at Oxford University, UK, and published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology [PDF] in 2015.
To learn more about protein shapes, visit the NIGMS-funded Protein Data Bank. For more science-themed activities and images, check out our new activities and multimedia webpage.