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Optical Properties of the Amino Acids
A tetrahedral carbon atom with 4 distinct constituents is said to be chiral. The one amino acid not exhibiting chirality is glycine since it’s '"R-group" is a hydrogen atom. Chirality describes the handedness of a molecule that is observable by the ability of a molecule to rotate the plane of polarized light either to the right (dextrorotatory) or to the left (levorotatory). All of the amino acids in proteins exhibit the same absolute steric configuration as L-glyceraldehyde. Therefore, they are all L-a-amino acids. D-amino acids are never found in proteins, although they exist in nature. D-amino acids are often found in polypeptide antibiotics.
The aromatic R-groups in amino acids absorb ultraviolet light with an absorbance maximum in the range of 280nm. The ability of proteins to absorb ultraviolet light is predominantly due to the presence of the tryptophan which strongly absorbs ultraviolet light.

King, PhD, Michael W. "Optical Properties of Amino Acids." The Medical Biochemistry page. 8/30/11. The Medical Biochemistry page, Web. 8/31/11.
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