What is a Tripeptide?

Nicki Howell

A tripeptide is a specific type of peptide, or protein molecule, that is formed when three different amino acids join together. Each of these molecules contains three amino acids and three peptide bonds. There are many different variations, and accordingly many different jobs and functions; in general, though, the molecules are all responsible for promoting stability and improving cellular communications in their environments. Most animals, including humans, synthesize these naturally in their bodies, and they’re responsible for a number of important functions, including promoting skin elasticity and helping keep blood pressure level. A lot depends on the chemicals and amino acids involved. They’re present in many plants, too, and scientists have also found ways to create them in labs; lab-derived tripeptides are often used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products to achieve or enhance certain results.

Tripeptides have a role in regulating thyroid function.
Tripeptides have a role in regulating thyroid function.

Main Function

The main function of tripeptides is cell communication, which means that they provide a stable environment in which chemicals passing between cells can both travel to and arrive at their destination in a safe and quick way. Many of the most important body functions happen because of cell communication, at least in some respects. “Communication” in this sense usually involves chemical exchanges that can trigger specific processes.

TRH is a tripeptide responsible for regulating the release of hormones in the thyroid.
TRH is a tripeptide responsible for regulating the release of hormones in the thyroid.

Peptide-based molecules also contribute to processes such as blood pressure regulation and thyroid function. As tripeptides age, however, communication signals may start to deteriorate, which can cause signs of aging and other health issues. Anti-aging creams and other cosmetic treatments often look for ways of using these compounds as a way to renew and refresh the body’s existing stores, at least at the surface level.

Understanding Classifications

There are usually three recognized classes of tripeptides: rigid, intermediate, and non-rigid. The intermediate group is the largest and accounts for about 78% of all of these molecules. Approximately 18% are classified as rigid and 4% are non-rigid. Classification is determined by measuring the distance between the atoms in the peptide bonds, and is usually also a reflection of how the larger molecule will behave.


Humans and most animals make tripeptides naturally, usually as a normal part of cell regeneration and growth. Many plants make them, too. There are many different varieties — many, many different compounds can come together in the three-peptide structure — and different organs and processes use specific groups. Researchers have begun differentiating them and determining how each is best suited, and are often able to replicate natural patterns for things like pharmaceutical drugs and different medical therapies.

Pharmaceutical Uses

People who are having trouble with processes that normally make use of peptide structures can often benefit from synthetic, or lab-created, replacements. Researchers are often able to create bound peptide structures that closely mimic those created naturally by the body, and can use these, usually in conjunction with other medications and chemicals, to trigger healing. In some cases peptide therapy can also help the body re-start its own production.

Cosmetic Benefits

One of the most popular cosmetic applications for these agents is in the realm of anti-aging. Anti-aging proponents believe that topical applications that center on a tripeptide structure — usually lotions, creams, or serums — can boost skin function and reverse damage. Under ideal circumstances, this is said to essentially give cells back their youth and prevent improper cell communication in the skin. Anti-aging product manufactures claim that molecular compounds used in these products improve the skin’s appearance, making it smooth and soft.

Not just any tripeptide molecule will get these results, though; in most cases, only certain chemical combinations can help skin. Common compounds used in anti-aging products include acetly glutamyl heptapeptide-3, acetyl tetrapeptide-9, and acetyl tetrapeptide-11 and argirline. These are often somewhat costly to produce, and the resulting products are often quite expensive as a consequence.

Lab-derived tripeptides may be present in cosmetics.
Lab-derived tripeptides may be present in cosmetics.

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Discussion Comments


Collagen is a main structural protein in the body. It is the main component in many of the connective tissues in the body. In fact it is the most abundant protein in mammals.

Collagen can be found in tendons, ligaments, cartilage and many other areas.

Collagen can be harvested and used in other ways. It can be used to make sausage casings and as string for musical instrument.

Collagen can be transplanted as well. Just like a liver or kidney transplant, certain parts made of collagen can be reused. It can be used in cosmetic surgery to repair damaged parts.

There are a lot of companies coming up with substitutes for collagen. In the case of sausage casings, there is a very adequate replacement that is more often used now.

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