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Mnemonics for Amino Acids

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I was searching around for some good Mnemonics or acronyms or anything I could find to remember the 20 essential amino acids names and structures. I found an excellent article here relating the structures of all the amino acids with easy ways to remember them. I’m going to mention things I found helpful for me here.

For those amino acids having non-polar aliphatic side chains, it was suggested that GAVLIMP as a good acronymn. For pronounciations sake it could be like:

G= Glycine

A= Alanine

Va= Valine

L= Leucine

I= Isoleucine

M= Methionine

P= Proline

Put it together, it comes to GAVa-LIMP. Thing is, the structures of the amino acids increase in complexity as you go from Glycine to Proline with Glycine having a hydrogen atom for the “R”- group while Proline has a sort of “penta-cyclic” side chain. Another way I remember this is swapping the first letters of the GAVa and LIMP to give LAVa-GIMP. Those of you that use Linux, will know that GIMP is a famous photo editing cum drawing program. So I picture the programs mascot, Wilber glowing with lava/fire!

In trying to remember the names and structure it was always helpful to observe any unusual or outstanding features of the molecule. For ones that do have such features, it was easy to remember. Only those groups of amino acids that had very subtle differences in their structures to the eye need help. For example, for the three amino acids Lysine, Histidine and Arginine in the “positively charged side chain” group I made up, LArHis (Larhis) rhymes with Lorries.

L=Lysine

Ar=Arginine

His=Histidine.

Couple of other oustanding features I found helpful were that the polar uncharged side chain containing Asparagine and Glutamine were amide versions of the negatively charged amino acids: Aspartate and Glutamate repectively. And also Cysteine and Methionine were the ones that contain Sulphur.

A side note: On the page 77 of the Lehninger Biochemistry (5th ed) book, it said that the dimer of Cysteine is called Cystine as if when one says it out loud somebody is going to notice the difference! Isn’t there enough confusion already about similar sounding names?!

You can find the structures of amino acids drawn out nicely on page 75 of Lehninger Biochem book.

36 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Life Always Has A Goal
    (for the last five amino acids (3 positively charged and 2 negatively charged groups)
    Lysine
    Araginine
    Histidine
    Aspartate
    Glutamate

    Reply

    • Hi GGS,

      That’s pretty neat. Yeah I wasn’t going for remembering the structures, so your ideas can come in handy. Thanks for the link.

      Reply

  2. Thanks guys! I just started Biochem and was trying to figure out a way to memorize all the names AND structures. I have to know everything for my class… Oy Vey!

    Reply

  3. I have one, though it’s not that great:

    For the polar AA:
    Three serene sisters aspire (to) tyranny & gluttony

    Threonine
    Serine
    Cysteine
    Asparagine
    Tyrosine
    Glutamine

    Reply

    • Actually, that may be one of the best one’s I’ve heard yet! Awesome one Lily =)

      Reply

      • According the Lehninger’s Principles of Biochemistry
        the polar amino acids are
        cysteine serine, asparagine, theronine, glutamine
        tyrosine is polar but is also aromatic

      • Three serene sisters aspire (to) tyranasarous rex & gluttony throughout history with Glee

        Fixed: Histidine + Glycine

        Source: your mom/ love

  4. Nonpolar AA:
    “A Suberu Goes (on) Three Tires”

    Asparagine
    Serine
    Glutamine
    Threonine
    Tyrosine

    Reply

  5. Hi All, thanks for the mnemonics.
    I have one for basic aa’s.
    HArLy. Like Harley Davidson. H=Histidine, Ar=Arginine, Ly=Lysine.
    Also have one for polar aa’s, It’s a bit effensive, but it helped me. It’s one thing I hate the most :D. Saggy TT’s = CAG TTS
    C=Cysteine (and Yes it is Polar, just look at the structure), A=Asparagine, G=Glutamine, T=Threonine, T=Tyrosine, S=Serine.
    Hope it helps. :D

    Reply

  6. For basics: HAL… then say “I am a Ha 9000″ really slowly like a Hal9000 is a old computer – basic. Say: Histidine……… Arginine…… Lysine. I remembered that from 4 years ago with that mneumonic.

    For nonpolars: VIP, Malt, Ph glycine… you make a Malt for a VIP, but the Ph is off so you add glycine.

    Got these from Examkrackers.

    Reply

  7. NEUTRAL POLAR:
    AS SERIOUS GIRL,TAKE TWO CUPs of TEA [AS =ASPARAGINE,G=GLUTAMINE,S=SERINE,T=TYROSINE,T=TRYPTOPHAN (boarder btw polar & non polar),T =THREONINE &C=CYSTEINE]
    BASIC AMINO ACIDS:
    He Lykes Angelina[H=histidine,L=lysine& A=arginine]
    ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS:
    Little Valentine Takes My Heart Twice,I Love All People[L=leucine,V=valine,T=tryptophan,M=methionine,H=histidine,T=threonine.I=isoleucine,L=lysine&A=arginine]
    NEUTRAL NON POLAR:
    Girls Are Very Lovely,If Men Put Patience.
    ACIDIC AMINO ACIDS:
    Aspartic acids & Glutamic acid
    THE R-GROUP OF THE AMINO ACIDS IN ORDER OF THE NUMBER OF CARBONS:
    Go[n=o,only H]
    All Shall See[A=alanine,S=serine&C=cysteine]——-n=1
    Not Three Days[N=asparagiNe,Th=threonine&D=asparDic acid]——-n=2
    Value Ma EQ(Egg)[ V=valine,M=metthionine&Q=glutamine]——–>n=3
    I luK HiR(up)[I=isoleucine,Hi=histidine,L=leucine&R=aRginine]——>n=4
    Philip Try Top Please[Phi=phenylalanine,T=tyrosine,P=Proline&T=tryptophan]——–>>>>AROMATIC R GROUP
    Read as”Go All Shall See,Not Three Days!Value Ma EQ,Philip Try Top Please ”
    NOW WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT ABOUT AMINO ACIDS!!!???

    Reply

  8. For Polar amino acids:T-SeQueNCe

    Single-letter codes of aa’s: Threonine-serine-glutamine-asparagine-cysteine

    Reply

  9. I prefer Mnemonics that give me strange mental pictures.

    Giant Alien Velociraptors Live In My Pants!

    for the non-polar aliphatic amino acids, Glycine, Alanine, Valine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Methionine, Proline

    As for the charged and nitrogen containing ones,

    Kick Red Herrings Down Eleven Nasty ….Q?

    Yeah, that might be a little too random and I’m not quite sure how to finish it.
    Lysine, Arginine, Histidine, Aspartate, Glutamate, Asparagine, Glutamine

    Reply

  10. I am a second year medical students who was terribly confused on how to memorized Amino acids as a whole, but I am now little bit re leaved. Thanks for the page.

    Reply

    • You’re kidding right? That’s what you’re learning in 2nd year MS? That’s second year undergrad…

      Reply

  11. Non Polar Aliphatic GAVaLIMP- Glycine-Alanine-Valine-Leucine-Isoleucine-Methionine-Proline

    Kinda of crude but for The Basic and Acidic Side Chains
    LArHis AsGlu(Lorries of Ass Glue)- Lysine-Arginine-Histadine Aspartate-Glutamate

    For Asparagine and Glutamine just replace the OH of the Acid with NH2

    For Aliphatic Hydroxyl Side Chains SeeThree P-OH(C3P-O) Serine-Threonine both have OH (Ignore the P)

    To remember that Cysteine has sulfur, Think of how the sistine chapel probably doesnt smell like hellfire and brimstone.

    The last three with aromatic side chains, think Phentyr Tryp(fender Trip)- Phenylalanine-tyrosine Tryptophan. This one kinda sucks but I couldn’t think of anything else.

    Reply

    • Heh! I wrote this blog post ages ago (1st year undergrad!) in trying to remember these amino acid names. Now I’m in Grad School, I actually don’t need to use these acronyms to remember them at all as I’ve worked with every single one of these amino acids during my Master’s. Cysteine is like the last thing I’d need to remember nowadays, as I’ve worked with it so much. In fact all the Sulfur-containing amino acids are my most studied subject matter. Funny how it all turned out, from an innocent post on the amino acids on my freshman year. I didn’t realise I’ll be working with these as closely back when I wrote this post! :)

      Reply

  12. For the charged amino acids, I use:
    Stand Tall, Never Quit
    Serine (S), Treonine (T), Aspargine (N), Glutamine (Q)

    Reply

  13. how about PVT. TIM HALL
    PVT – MEANING PRIVATE AS IN MILITARY..
    (P)HENYLALANINE
    (V)ALINE
    (T)HREONINE

    (T)RYPTOPHAN
    (I)SOLEUCINE
    (M)ETHIONINE

    (H)ISTIDINE
    (A)RGININE
    (L)EUCINE
    (L)YSINE

    Reply

  14. Non- Polar R Groups of Amino Acids

    Mnemonic AA’S
    Glycine Glycine
    Alanine Alanine
    Valentine Valine
    Lives in Leucine
    Isolation Isolation
    for Methionine Methionine
    & Proline Proline

    Aromatic R Groups

    Penalizing Phenylalanine
    Tyrosine Tyrosine
    Tryptophan Tryptophan

    Reply

  15. GAPVLIMSTNQCFYWKRHDE

    “GAPVLIM” Says The New Queen Cat. Fool, You Walk? Kids Run High. Do everything!!

    ahahaha works for me….. makes no sense though

    Reply

  16. You seriosly have tried. It was more than helpful. God bless!

    Reply

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