There are four recognized levels of protein structure: primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. The primary structure refers to the amino acid sequence of a protein. The primary structure is important to the protein's unique three-dimensional structure, its mechanism of action, and its relationship to other proteins with similar physiological roles. The amino acids in a protein✶ are linked together by a specific type of covalent bond , called a peptide bond, that exists between adjacent amino acids in the polypeptide chain. Another important aspect of the primary structure is the sequence or order of amino acids in the polypeptide chain. The sequence of amino acids in a protein is specified by the nucleotide sequence of the segment of DNA containing the gene that codes for that protein. Each protein has a characteristic number and sequence of amino acid residues. The primary structure of a protein determines how the protein folds into a unique three-dimensional structure (further described by the secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structures), which in turn determines the biological function of the protein.
✶See the Amino Acids article for a table of the amino acids.
Elizabeth S. Roberts-Kirchhoff
Nelson, David L., and Cox, Michael M. (2000). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, 3rd edition. New York: Worth Publishers.
Bragin, Victoria. "Introduction to Protein Structure." Available from <http://www.paccd.cc.ca.us>.
Gorga, Frank. "Introduction to Protein Structure." Available from <http://webhost.bridgew.edu/fgorga>.