Peptides--the amino acid chains that make up proteins--were long relegated to a sideline of the much larger field of protein chemistry. But over the last few decades, their importance has grown as the understanding of these biological building blocks has become essential to a multitude of sciences, from agriculture to therapeutics to the Human Genome Project. As peptide chemistry continues to make its way into other disciplines, it behooves researchers from these disciplines to gain a basic grounding in the techniques of peptide chemistry.

One of the first scientists to recognize the potential of peptide chemistry was Frederick Sanger, who in 1944 embarked upon a 12-year project to unravel the amino acid sequence of the protein molecule insulin. Sanger eventually solved this puzzle by breaking the insulin molecule into two peptide chains, breaking them in turn into still smaller chains, figuring out their sequences, and then overlapping the sequences of...

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