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Tertiary structure

German: Tertiärstruktur

1 Definition

The term tertiary structure is used in biochemistry to describe the three-dimensional structure of proteins, nucleic acids or other biological polymers. As with the secondary structure, the tertiary structure is determined to a great extent by the primary structure of the polymer's building blocks (e.g. amino acids for proteins or nucleotides for nucleic acids) and hydrogen bonds. The tertiary structure forms a higher ordered spatial construct that often consists of various types of secondary structure (e.g. alpha-helix or beta-sheet). The sequence or arrangement of the secondary structural elements is then referred to as the tertiary structure.

The tertiary structure of spheroidal globular proteins is frequently stabilized by very strong disulfide bridges. Energetic driving forces that, in fluid environments, act upon the hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions of a protein or nucleic acid chain are also important for its folding.

2 Function

The tertiary structure is crucial for the biological function of polymers, especially proteins. Proteins, for example, have a variety of vital functions such as catalysts (enzymes), hormones or receptors. Loss of a protein's tertiary structure results in loss of the protein's function.

see also: Primary structure, Secondary structure, Quaternary structure, Hydrogen bond

Specialties: Biology

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