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Unit 1: The Chemistry of Life Chapter 5: The Structure and Function of Large Biological Molecules Overview: The Molecules of Life Concept 5.1: Macromolecules are polymers, built from monomers Concept 5.2: Carbohydrates serve as fuel and building material Concept 5.3: Lipids are a diverse group of hydrophobic molecules Concept 5.4: Proteins have many structures, resulting in a wide range of functions Concept 5.5: Nucleic acids store and transmit hereditary information


a giant molecule formed by the joining of smaller molecules, usually by a condensation reaction


a long molecule consisting of many similar or identical monomers linked together


the subunit that serves as the building block of a polymer

condensation reaction

a reaction in which two molecules become covalently bonded to each other through the loss of a small molecule, usually water, in which case it is also called a dehydration reaction


a macromolecule serving as a catalyst, a chemical agent that changes the rate of a reaction without being consumed by the reaction


a chemical process that lyses, or splits, molecules by the addition of water, functioning in the disassembly of polymers


a sugar (monosaccharide) or one of its dimers (disaccharides) or polymers (polysaccharides)


the simplest carbohydrate, active alone or serving as a monomer for disaccharides or polysaccharides


a double sugar, consisting of two monosaccharides joined by a glycosidic linkage formed during dehydration synthesis


a polymer of many monosaccharides, formed by dehydration reactions

glycosidic linkage

a covalent bond formed between two monosaccharides by a dehydration reaction


a storage polysaccharide in plants, consisting entirely of glucose monomers joined by glycosidic linkage


an extensively branched glucose storage polysaccharide found in the liver and muscle of animals; the animal equivalent of starch


a structural polysaccharide of plant cell walls, consisting of glucose monomers joined by glycosidic linkages


a structural polysaccharide, consisting of amino acid sugar monomers, found in many fungal cell walls and in the exoskeleton of all arthropods


one of a group of compounds, including fats, phospholipids, and steroids, that mix poorly in, if at all, water


a lipid consisting of three fatty acids linked to one glycerol molecule; also called a triacylglycerol or triacylglyceride

fatty acid

a long carbon chain carboxylic acid


three fatty acids linked to one glycerol molecule; also called a fat or triacylglyceride

saturated fatty acid

a fatty acid in which all carbons in the hydrocarbon tail are connected by single bonds, thus maximizing the number of hydrogen atoms that are attached to the carbon skeleton

unsaturated fatty acid

a fatty acid possessing one or more double bonds between the carbons in the hydrocarbon tail, Such bonding reduces the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon skeleton

trans fat

an unsaturated fat containing one or more trans double bonds


a lipid made up of glycerol joined to two fatty acid and a phosphate group. The hydrocarbon chains of the fatty acids act as nonpolar, hydrophobic tails, while the rest of the molecule acts as a polar, hydrophilic head.


a type of lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton consisting of four rings with various chemical groups attatched


a steroid that forms an essential component of animal cell membranes and acts as a precursor molecule for the synthesis of other biologically important steroids, such as hormones


a polymer (chain) of many amino acids linked together by peptide bonds


a functional biological molecule consisting of one or more polypeptides folded and coiled into a specific three-dimensional structure


a chemical agent that increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed by the reaction

amino acid

an organic molecule possessing both carboxyl and amino groups. Serve as the monomers of polypeptides

peptide bond

the covalent bond between the carboxyl group on one amino acid and the amino group on another, formed by a dehydration reaction

primary structure

the level of protein structure referring to the specific sequence of amino acids

secondary structure

the localized, repetitive coiling or folding of the polypeptide backbone of a protein due to hydrogen bond formation between constituents of the backbone

tertiary structure

irregular contortions of a protein molecule due to interactions of side chains involving hydrophobic interactions, ionic bonds, hydrogen bonds, and disulfide bridges

quaternary structure

the particular shape of a complex, aggregate protein, defined by the characteristic three-dimensional arrangement of its constituent subunits, each a polypeptide


in proteins, a process in which a protein unravels and loses its native shape, thereby becoming biologically inactive; in DNA, the separation of the two strands of the double helix. Occurs under extreme (noncellular) conditions of pH, salt concentration, and temperature


a discrete unit of hereditary information consisting of a specific nucleotide sequence in DNA (or RNA, in some viruses)

nucleic acid

a polymer (polynucleotide) consisting of many nucleotide monomers; serves as a blueprint for proteins and, through the action of proteins, for all cellular activities: the two types are DNA and RNA

deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)

a double-stranded, helical nucleic acid molecule, consisting of nucleotide monomers with a deoxyribose sugar and the nitrogenous bases adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C); capable of being replicated and determining the inherited structure of a cell's proteins

ribonucleic acid (RNA)

a type of nucleic acid consisting of nucleotide monomers with a ribose sugar and the nitrogenous bases adenine (A), guanine (G), uracil (U), and cytosine (C); usually single-stranded; functions in protein synthesis, gene regulation, and as the genome of some viruses


a polymer consisting of many nucleotide monomers in a chain; can be those of DNA or RNA


the building block of a nucleic acid, consisting of a five-carbon sugar covalently bonded to a nitrogenous base and a phosphate group


one of two types of nitrogenous bases found in nucleotides, characterized by a six-membered ring. Cytosine (C), thymine (T), and uracil (U)


one of two types of nitrogenous bases found in nucleotides, characterized by a six-membered ring fused to a five-membered ring. Adenine (A) and guanine (G)


the sugar component of RNA nucleotides


the sugar component of DNA nucleotides, having one fewer hydroxyl group than ribose, the sugar component of RNA nucleotides

double helix

the form of native DNA, referring to its two adjacent antiparallel polynucleotide strands wound around an imaginary acid into a spiral shape

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