Friday, May 06, 2016

Around the World in Amino Acids

This post is pure whimsy, growing out of killing time on a train ride. The not-so-serious question: what is the geography of amino acids?  If I search for them by name in Google Maps, what will I find?  With just Google Maps, plus some Google Translate thrown in, I found a few surprises.


This was the first search and perhaps the most striking surprise -- why is there a market deep in Africa named Alanine?  


Nada.  Not even a chapel. 

The Acidic Sidechains and Their Amides

Nothing for aspartic or aspartate. Since glutamate is a common flavor enhancer, I somewhat expected to find some hits with glutamate or glutamic.  And indeed, there is a Glutamica Corp in Quezon City in the Philippines.  Thai Glutamate Company in Bangkok, Thailand.  Plus Glutamina24, a nutritional supplements store in Zielona Gora, Poland.

A Portuguese business has both the name Glutamine-alimentação Racional E Dietética Lda and the domain name.  Asparagine lacks any hits.


Beaucoup hits! Something in Hasnon, France.  A watch store in Biel, Switzerland. A short street, the Impasse des Glycines, in Fribourg, Switzerland. Glycinenplein in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, which is a very short road.  Immo Glycines Bvba in Brussels -- which is on The Avenue des Glycines.  Another street: Allée des Glycines, Valenciennes, France. A Rue des Glycines in Marly, France,  A house, apparently named Gite des Glycines. A school: Ecole des Glycines.  Clinique Vétérinaire des Glycines in Orléans. And probably more.

The repeated occurrence in French-speaking areas couldn't be a coincidence, particularly all the street names.  Of course, it is a bit ironic: all these "of the Glycines", when there is only one form of glycine (as opposed to the D & L forms of most amino acids, or the conformation forms of proline).  So this is how I learned that the ornamental vine wisteria is known in French as glycine.

One more, which doesn't fit that pattern: Glycine House, on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace outside London.


A street, the Rua Leucina, in São Paulo, Brazil.  Google Translate and other online sources haven't given a hint what this means in Portuguese.  Alas, isoleucine comes up with nothing


Might start all proteins, but gets nothing going in Google Maps.


Several hits, some from Brazil.  Clinica Proline in . São Paulo. A computer repair shop in the same city.  Again, no obvious translation to English.  A furniture store named Prlinea S.r.o. in Brno, the Czech Republic comes up -- stretching it perhaps to include it, but given the importance of the city to the history of genetics, I felt I had to mention it.


Given the periodic crazes over arginine as a dietary supplement, a bit surprised to get only two hits -- one in Utah and one in the UK.


Serine, in La Vaud,  Switzerland -- which I am guessing is a path through a park (several related hits are nearby, and Maps is labeling some sort of squiggly thing).


Need to insure your laboratory?  May I suggest the Hackett, Valine & Macdonald Inc, insurance agents in St. Albans, Vermont, for all your needs? Or if you need to cool off, there's Valines Lake in Michigan.  Or perhaps you wish to vacation in Valines, France, about half-way between Calais and Le Havre?

The Other Zeros

Zeros: phenylalanine, histidine, threonine, tryptophan and tyrosine

If you know any other spots, or translations I missed, please do include them in the comments.

1 comment:

Jonathan Badger said...

Reminds me of what I thought when the Columbian Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez died and his birthplace of Aracataca was briefly in the news -- that's not a town, that's a PCR primer!