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  • Writer's pictureCaden Leung

Don't Be the 96% of People Who Struggle with Macromolecule Basics!

Believe it or not, many concepts in biology are based on 4 simple molecules: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. However, many people struggle to understand the function, composition, and components of these molecules.

Don't worry, it's not another article full of boring science lingo! We've decided to give you a TL;DR of what macromolecules are all about.

But, if you really don't feel like reading, check out our YouTube video that encompasses the basics of macromolecules in 3 minutes!

1) What are macromolecules?

  • Macromolecules, also called organic compounds, are made of carbon

  • Includes carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.

  • Every macromolecule has a monomer (think of a Lego piece)

  • Every macromolecule has a polymer made of many monomers (think of a chain of Lego pieces)

2) How do we make or break macromolecules?

  • Dehydration Synthesis: removing water from monomers to build polymers.

  • Dehydration = remove water; Synthesis = build, put together

  • Hydrolysis: adding water to break polymers into monomers.

  • Hydro = water; Lysis = break/destroy

3) Carbohydrates

  • Found in foods such as bread & pasta

  • Provide short-term energy

  • Composition: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen

  • Monomers: monosaccharides (simple sugars like glucose & fructose)

  • Polymers: disaccharides & polysaccharides

  • Disaccharides - two simple sugars linked together (glucose + fructose = sucrose)

  • Polysaccharides - starch & glycogen (energy storage), cellulose (makes up cell wall), and chitin

Courtesy of Medicine Libre Texts (Sucrose = Glucose [left] + Fructose [right] )

4) Lipids

  • Provide long-term energy, make up hormones & cell membrane.

  • Composition: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen

  • Monomers: fatty acids & glycerol

  • Polymers: fats, oils, cholesterol, & phospholipids (commonly found in the cell membrane)

  • Example of Polymer: Triglyceride (3 fatty acid tails attached to the backbone of glycerol)

  • Fats & Oils have two main types of fatty acids: saturated & unsaturated

  • Saturated - single bonds only; harder to digest; tightly packed; solid at room temperature

  • Unsaturated - double carbon bonds & single bonds; easier to digest; less packed; liquid at room temperature

  • (Double lines in the drawing represent double bonds)

Courtesy of Science Direct

5) Nucleic Acids

  • Genetic Blueprint

  • Composition: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus

  • Monomers: Nucleotides (made of a sugar, nitrogen base, & phosphate group)

  • Polymers: DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) & RNA (Ribonucleic Acid)

  • DNA - instructions to make protein (direction in a cookbook)

  • RNA - carries instructions to the ribosomes (protein-construction factory) to make protein

6) Proteins

  • Catalysts (speed up reactions), immunity, & transporting genetic materials

  • Composition: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulfur

  • Monomers: amino acids

  • Amino acids - 20 different types; linked by peptide bonds; differ in R-groups

  • Polymers: Proteins (i.e. enzymes, antibodies, keratin [nails])

  • Enzymes: help to decrease activation energy, meaning that reactions will be sped up!

See, I told you! This list encompasses the basics of each macromolecule. Of course, there are many more examples of polymers and monomers out there, but I've listed the most important ones you need to know! That's all for now. . .until next time!

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