What is meant by tertiary structure of proteins?
The helical polypeptide molecule may fold on itself and assume a complex but specific form-spherical, rod-like or any form in between these. These geometrical shapes,are known as tertiary (3°) structure of protein molecules. The coils and folds of the polypeptide molecules are so arranged as to hide the non-polar amino acid chains inside and to expose the polar side chains. The tertiary structure of a protein brings distant amino acid side chains nearer to form active sites of enzymatic proteins. The tertiary structure is maintained by weak bonds such as hydrogen, ionic, disulphide and hydrophilic – hydrophobic bonds, formed between one part of a polypeptide and another. This structure is easily disrupted by pH, temperature and chemicals stopping the function of proteins.
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