Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 17

The Structure and Properties of Matter

The Structure and Properties of Matter


The Structure and Properties of Matter - The Structures, Properties, and Functions of
Biomolecules

Objective
At the end of the lesson, you should be able to explain how the structures of biological
macromolecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids determine
their properties and functions.

Biomolecules are large organic compounds that are important to life’s processes, such
as respiration and metabolism. There are numerous biomolecules with different
structures and functions. They are generally classified into four major groups – proteins,
carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.

In this lesson, you will look into the general structure, properties, and functions of each
of these groups of biomolecules.

Last Updated: 08.12.16

Learn about it!


Proteins

Proteins are biomolecules composed of amino acid units. Amino acids are organic
molecules that have a central carbon atom bonded to four different groups — an amino
group (), an acidic carboxyl group (), a hydrogen atom, and a variable side chain, R. The
side chain can range from a single hydrogen atom to complex ring structures.

In a protein, the amino acids are linked via a peptide bond. This peptide bond is
formed between an amino group of one amino acid and an acid carboxyl group of
another amino acid. A chain of two or more amino acids linked together by peptide
bonds is called a peptide.
The smallest protein has about 50 amino acids. However, large proteins can have as
many as 1000 amino acids, arranged in any possible sequence. It is estimated that
human cells can create between 80 000 to 100 000 different proteins.

The shape of a protein is important so that it can carry out its function. Long chains of
amino acids fold into a unique three-dimensional shape. Some areas of the protein may
twirl into helices, like the coils of a telephone cord. Other areas may be repeatedly bent
into a pleated sheet, like the folds of an accordion. An important intermolecular force
of attraction that dictate and maintain the shape of a protein is the hydrogen
bonding.

Properties

Proteins can participate in neutral, acidic, or basic reactions because their amino acids
have an acidic carboxyl end and a basic amino end. The amino acids
are amphoteric which means they can function either as an acid or a base. Also,
proteins have high molecular weights because they are comprised of many amino acids.

Functions

The sequence of amino acids determines the protein’s shape and function. Proteins play
many important roles in living cells. They can hasten chemical reactions, transport
substances, and provide structural support.

Many proteins function as enzymes, which are molecules that catalyze or speed up
chemical reactions in the body. The reactant molecules bind to the active site of the
enzymes, where they react to form products. Enzymes have shapes that are highly
specific for their functions. A slight change to their structures will inhibit them to do
their function.

Transport proteins carry small particles throughout the body. For example, the
protein haemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body.
An important part of hemoglobin is its iron group (called heme), the part to which
oxygen binds.

Structural proteins are fibrous proteins which have long, thin structures. A typical
example of a structural protein is keratin, which is a component of the protective
covering of most animals – hair, nails, skin or feathers.
Learn about it!
Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are molecules that are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
They have a general formula of . They can be grouped depending on the number of their
monomer units called saccharides.

Carbohydrates can be divided into three major groups: monosaccharides, disaccharides,


and polysaccharides.

Monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrates. They contain either five or
six carbon atoms. They have open-chain and cyclic forms. A typical example of
monosaccharide is glucose, , one of the products of photosynthesis in plants.

Disaccharides are two monosaccharides bonded to each other. The monosaccharides


are linked through an ether () group. A common example of a disaccharide is the
sweetener sucrose, or table sugar. Sucrose is formed by glucose and fructose.

Polysaccharides are long chains of monosaccharide units. They are also


called complex carbohydrates. Similar to disaccharides, the monosaccharides in a
polysaccharide are linked through an ether bond. An example of a polysaccharide is
starch, which is used to store energy in plants. It is comprised solely of glucose subunits.

Properties

Monosaccharides and disaccharides are small molecules with multiple polar


groups so they are water soluble. Because they exhibit hydrogen bonding in their
structures, they have high melting points.

In comparison, polysaccharides are less soluble due to their large sizes and complex
shapes. For example, starch and glycogen are both insoluble in water. On the other
hand, cellulose, also water-insoluble, cannot be digested by humans because the
appropriate enzyme to breakdown cellulose into simpler monosaccharides is lacking.
Hence, nutritionists call cellulose as dietary fiber because it just passes through the
digestive system unchanged.

Functions

The main function of carbohydrates is to store and provide energy. They are broken
down into smaller glucose units that can be easily absorbed by the cells. When glucose is
further broken down, the energy released by breaking its chemical bonds are used or
stored by the body in the form of glycogen.
Some carbohydrates also serve as the framework of cellular structures. For
example, cellulose makes up the cell wall of plant cells. Chitin, another carbohydrate,
forms the exoskeleton of arthropods and the cell wall of fungal cells.
Learn about it!
Lipids
Lipids are large, nonpolar biomolecules. They are mainly composed of carbon,
hydrogen, and oxygen. Unlike proteins and carbohydrates, lipids are not polymers with
repeating monomer subunits. They have many kinds including triglycerides, waxes, and
steroids.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are lipids composed of glycerol and fatty acids. Glycerol is a molecule
with three carbons, each containing a hydroxyl () group while fatty acid is a long chain
of carboxylic acid.

When three fatty acids bond to glycerol, they form ester bonds.

Triglycerides can be solid or liquid at room temperature. If solid at room temperature,


they are called fats. Fats, such as lard and butter, are produced by animals. If liquid at
room temperature, they are called oils. Oils, such as coconut and olive oils, are
produced by plants.

Waxes

Waxes are lipids that are composed of a fatty acid with a long chain of alcohol. They are
produced by both plants and animals. Plants often produce wax that coats their leaves
which prevents them from drying out. Animals such as bees also produce wax. Bees
create their honeycomb structures from beeswax.

Steroids

Steroids are lipids without fatty acid chains. Instead, they have multiple rings in their
structures. They are built from the basic four-ring steroid structure.
An example of a steroid is dietary lipid cholesterol. Cholesterol is the precursor of
hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Recall that hormones are molecules that
communicate between organs to regulate physiology and behavior.

Properties

Lipids such as triglycerides and waxes are mostly made of nonpolar hydrocarbon chains,
making them generally insoluble in water. The hydrocarbon chains are the “hydrophobic
(water-fearing) tails” of lipids. On the other hand, their hydroxyl, ester, and ether
groups can interact with water. These groups are called “hydrophilic (water-loving)
heads.” When lipids are mixed with water, they arrange themselves in a spherical form
called a micelle.

Functions

Lipids are the reserved sources of energy. The energy stored in their bonds is used
by the body for fuel. When the energy is abundant, cells store the excess energy in the
fatty acids of triglycerides.

Lipids like waxes are used as a protective coating of organisms. Because they are
hydrophobic, lipids protect plants and animals from drying out by controlling
evaporation.
Learn about it!
Nucleic Acids
Nucleic acids, discovered by Friedrich Miescher in 1869, are biomolecules that are
made up of repeating units of nucleotides. Nucleotides are monomers with three
components, a 5-carbon sugar, a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base. The
nucleotides are linked through phosphodiester bonds.

If the sugar is ribose, then the nucleotides make up the ribonucleic acid (RNA). On
the other hand, if the sugar is deoxyribose, then the nucleotides make up
the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Both DNA and RNA have nitrogenous bases. The
five common nitrogenous bases are adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), thymine (T),
and uracil (U).

Properties

DNA and RNA are very stable molecules because of the stacking interaction between
their hydrophobic parts. Also, hydrogen bonding present between the polar parts of the
molecule plays a role in maintaining the structure of the nucleic acid.

Functions
DNA contains the genetic instructions for the development and functioning of
organisms. This genetic information is converted by the RNA into amino acid sequences
of proteins. RNA has three types, messenger RNA (mRNA), ribosomal
RNA (rRNA), and transfer RNA (tRNA). The mRNA carries the genetic sequence
information between the DNA and ribosomes. In ribosomes, proteins are synthesized.
The rRNA catalyzes the peptide bond formation while the tRNA serve as the carrier
molecules of the amino acids that make up the protein.
Try it!
A concept map is a graphic organizer that illustrates the connection between terms,
ideas, concepts, and processes. Make a concept map of the four types of biomolecules
and their properties and functions.

What do you think?


How are nucleic acids related to proteins? What will happen to the protein being
synthesized in the ribosomes if an error occurs in the genetic information passed from
the DNA to the RNA?

Key Points
 Biomolecules are large organic compounds that are important to life’s
processes. They are generally classified into four major groups – proteins,
carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.
 Proteins are biomolecules composed of amino acid units. The sequence of
amino acids determines the protein’s shape and function. In the human body,
proteins hasten chemical reactions, transport substances, and provide structural
support.
 Carbohydrates are molecules that are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and
oxygen. They have a general formula of . Their functions are to store energy and
serve as the framework of cellular structures.
 Lipids are large, nonpolar biomolecules mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen,
and oxygen. They function as reserved sources of energy and protective coating of
organisms.
 Nucleic acids are biomolecules that are made up of repeating units of
nucleotides, which are made up of a 5-carbon sugar, a phosphate group, and a
nitrogenous base. They encode, transmit, and express genetic information.
Question 1
Which of the following are biomolecules composed of amino acid units?

Correct!
1proteins
Proteins are biomolecules composed of amino acid units linked via peptide bonds.

Next question
2carbohydrates3nucleic acids4lipids

Question 2
Which of the following are examples of carbohydrates?

Incorrect!
1triglyceride2glucose
Carbohydrates are molecules that are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Examples of
carbohydrates include glucose (monosaccharide) and glycogen (polysaccharide).

Next question
3uracil4glycogen
Question 3
Fats and oils belong to which group of biomolecules?

Incorrect!
2carbohydrates
Fats and oils are triglycerides, which are lipids composed of glycerol and fatty acids.

Next question
1lipids3nucleic acids4proteins

Question 4
Which of the following biomolecules contain only carbon, hydrogen and oxygen?

Correct!
1carbohydrates4lipids
Carbohydrates and lipids are mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Proteins and
nucleic acids contain other elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.

Next question
2nucleic acids3proteins

Question 5
Which of the following statements is true about waxes?

Correct!
1They are composed of a fatty acid with a long chain of alcohol.
Waxes are lipids that are composed of a fatty acid with a long chain of alcohol. They are produced by
both plants and animals.

Next question
2They are biomolecules that are made up of repeating units of nucleotides.3They are
complex carbohydrates composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.4They are amphoteric
because their amino acids have an acidic carboxyl end and a basic amino end.

Question 6
Which of the following is the arrangement of triglycerides and waxes when they are mixed with
water?

Incorrect!
3pleated sheet
When lipids are mixed with water, they arrange themselves in a spherical form called a micelle.
Next question
1cyclic2micelle4helix

Question 7
Which of the following nucleic acids catalyzes the peptide bond formation?

Correct!
2rRNA
The rRNA is the RNA component of ribosomes. It catalyzes the peptide bond formation during
protein synthesis.

Next question
1mRNA3tRNA4DNA

Question 8
Which of the following are functions of carbohydrates?

Incorrect!
4speed up chemical reactions
The main function of carbohydrates is to store and provide energy. They are broken down into
smaller glucose units that can be easily absorbed by the cells. In addition, some carbohydrates serve
as the framework of cellular structures.

Next question
1store and provide energy2express genetic information3provide framework of cellular
structures

Question 9
Which of the following are the reasons why cellulose passes through the digestive system
unchanged?

Incorrect!
1It cannot be broken down into simpler monosaccharides in the body.
Cellulose, a water-insoluble polysaccharide, cannot be digested by humans because the appropriate
enzyme to breakdown cellulose into simpler monosaccharides is lacking. Hence, nutritionists call
cellulose as dietary fiber because it just passes through the digestive system unchanged.

Next question
2Its large molecular size makes it insoluble in water.3It forms a micelle when it mixes with
water in the body.4Its helical shape is not recognized by the enzymes for digestion.
Question 10
Molecules A and B both contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen only. Molecule A is soluble in water
while Molecule B is insoluble in water.

What are the most probable identities of A and B?

Incorrect!
1A is a protein and B is a nucleic acid.
Carbohydrates and lipids both have C, H, and O atoms. However, most carbohydrates are soluble in
water while lipids are insoluble.

Finish quiz
2A is a carbohydrate and B is a lipid.3A is a nucleic acid and B is a carbohydrate.4A is a
lipid and B is a protein.