One type of amphoteric species are amphiprotic molecules, which can either donate or accept a proton (H+). Examples include amino acids and proteins, which have amine and carboxylic acid groups, and self-ionizable compounds such as water.
Ampholytes are amphoteric molecules that contain both acidic and basic groups and will exist mostly as zwitterions in a certain range of pH. The pH at which the average charge is zero is known as the molecule's isoelectric point. Ampholytes are used to establish a stable pH gradient for use in isoelectric focusing.
Amphoteric is derived from the Greek word amphoteroi (ἀμφότεροι) meaning "both". Related words in acid-base chemistry are amphichromatic and amphichroic, both describing substances such as acid-base indicators which give one colour on reaction with an acid and another colour on reaction with a base.
According to the Brønsted-Lowry theory of acids and bases: acids are proton donors and bases are proton acceptors. An amphiprotic molecule (or ion) can either donate or accept a proton, thus acting either as an acid or a base. Water, amino acids, hydrogen carbonate ions and hydrogen sulfate ions are common examples of amphiprotic species. Since they can donate a proton, all amphiprotic substances contain a hydrogen atom. Also, since they can act like an acid or a base, they are amphoteric.