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Aspartate is one of the most basic components in the amino acid repertoire, and here is why. First, it is very easy to produce, just one step away from oxaloacetate, the starter of the citric acid cycle. Second, it is an essential component for the synthesis of pyrimidine nucleobases. Every pyrimidine synthesis starts with the attachment of an aspartate to a ribose, and subsequent conversion of the amino acid moiety into a nucleobase is a matter of a few simple steps.

In proteins, aspartate is very common actor in catalytic triads, which involve acid-base transition, for example, lipases or peptidases. A negatively charged side chain of an aspartate is a critical residue, which allows abstractoion of a proton from other catalytic components, such as histidine or serine.

There is a good use of polymeric amino acid, polyaspartate, in industrial settings. Due to a high concentration of the negative charge, this is a good metal coater and water softener, which is fully biodegradable, in contrast to other alternatives (such as polyacrylate).

Interesting readings:
  • Dodson, G. and Wlodamer, A. Catalytic triads and their relatives. Trends Biochem. Sci., 23, 1998, 347-352, doi: 10.1016/S0968-0004(98)01254-7
  • Fu, A. and Danial, N. N. Grasping for aspartate in tumour metabolism. Nat. Cell Biol., 20, 2018, 738-739, doi: 10.1038/s41556-018-0137-9
  • Herring, B. E. et al. Is Aspartate an Excitatory Neurotransmitter? (SPOILER: no) J. Neurosci., 35, 2015, 10168-10171, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0524-15.2015

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