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Fibrous structural protein of hair, nails, hooves, wool, feathers, and skin. A quarter of the amino acids in keratin are cystine, whose ability to form strong bridging (disulfide) bonds with other cystine units accounts for keratin's great stability. Keratin does not dissolve in cold or hot water and does not easily undergo proteolysis. Its fibres are 10–12% longer at maximum water content (about 16%) than when dry. The sulfurous smell of burning keratin is distinctive.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on keratin, visit Britannica.com.