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An illustration of a phospholipids bilayer is shown. The phospholipids bilayer consists of two layers of phospholipids. The hydrophobic tails of the phospholipids face one another while the hydrophilic head groups face outward.
The phospholipid bilayer is the major component of all cellular membranes. The hydrophilic head groups of the phospholipids face the aqueous solution. The hydrophobic tails are sequestered in the middle of the bilayer.

The head is the hydrophilic part, and the tail contains the hydrophobic fatty acids. In a membrane, a bilayer of phospholipids forms the matrix of the structure, the fatty acid tails of phospholipids face inside, away from water, whereas the phosphate group faces the outside, aqueous side ( [link] ).

Phospholipids are responsible for the dynamic nature of the plasma membrane. If a drop of phospholipids is placed in water, it spontaneously forms a structure known as a micelle, where the hydrophilic phosphate heads face the outside and the fatty acids face the interior of this structure.

Steroids

Unlike the phospholipids and fats discussed earlier, steroids have a fused ring structure. Although they do not resemble the other lipids, they are grouped with them because they are also hydrophobicand insoluble in water. All steroids have four linked carbon rings and several of them, like cholesterol, have a short tail ( [link] ). Many steroids also have the –OH functional group, which puts them in the alcohol classification (sterols).

 The structures of cholesterol and cortisol are shown. Each of these molecules is composed of three six-carbon rings fused to a five-carbon ring. Cholesterol has a branched hydrocarbon attached to the five-carbon ring, and a hydroxyl group attached to the terminal six-carbon ring. Cortisol has a two-carbon chain modified with a double-bonded oxygen, a hydroxyl group attached to the five-carbon ring, and an oxygen double-bonded to the terminal six-carbon ring.
Steroids such as cholesterol and cortisol are composed of four fused hydrocarbon rings.

Cholesterol is the most common steroid. Cholesterol is mainly synthesized in the liver and is the precursor to many steroid hormones such as testosterone and estradiol, which are secreted by the gonads and endocrine glands. It is also the precursor to Vitamin D. Cholesterol is also the precursor of bile salts, which help in the emulsification of fats and their subsequent absorption by cells. Although cholesterol is often spoken of in negative terms by lay people, it is necessary for proper functioning of the body. It is a component of the plasma membrane of animal cells and is found within the phospholipid bilayer. Being the outermost structure in animal cells, the plasma membrane is responsible for the transport of materials and cellular recognition and it is involved in cell-to-cell communication.

For an additional perspective on lipids, explore the interactive animation “Biomolecules: The Lipids”

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Section summary

Lipids are a class of macromolecules that are nonpolar and hydrophobic in nature. Major types include fats and oils, waxes, phospholipids, and steroids. Fats are a stored form of energy and are also known as triacylglycerols or triglycerides. Fats are made up of fatty acids and either glycerol or sphingosine. Fatty acids may be unsaturated or saturated, depending on the presence or absence of double bonds in the hydrocarbon chain. If only single bonds are present, they are known as saturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids may have one or more double bonds in the hydrocarbon chain. Phospholipids make up the matrix of membranes. They have a glycerol or sphingosine backbone to which two fatty acid chains and a phosphate-containing group are attached. Steroids are another class of lipids. Their basic structure has four fused carbon rings. Cholesterol is a type of steroid and is an important constituent of the plasma membrane, where it helps to maintain the fluid nature of the membrane. It is also the precursor of steroid hormones such as testosterone.

Questions & Answers

do you care asking you a question
Afolayan Reply
name the gas that diffuses into the plants leaves on a bright, sunny day
Tuhemwe Reply
explain why this gas diffuses into the plant's leaves
Tuhemwe
name two gases that diffuses out of the plant's leaves on a bright sunny day
Tuhemwe
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Rondy Reply
why does a car move yet it is not a living thing?
Sserujja
this is because of the engine and fuel placed on
Gift
what is the reason of swelling due to fracture
Ejaz Reply
how do animals reproduce
Kelvin Reply
be specific because there are so many types of animals and how they reproduce are different
Sheillah
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Chinwendu
what happens when you sneeze
Asuquo Reply
The sneeze center sends out a signal to tightly close your throat, eyes and mouth. Your chest muscles contract and compress your lungs while your throat muscles relax. All of that means air, saliva and mucus is forced out of your nose and mouth. AAAAAHHHH-CHOOOO.
Hassan
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Ayouba
hy
Ejaz
hii
Ishitha
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mahesha
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Madu
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Abavon
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Abavon
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Sheillah
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Sheillah
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Sheillah
what is globsl warming
Rondy
Global warming is the overall rise in temperature of the Earth itself which is caused by multiple factors. Such factors include: greenhouse gases, the burning of fossil fuels and other forms of human activity.
Maryam
It's overall effects are known as climate change.
Maryam
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Rondy
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Haider
No problem.
Maryam
Thank you.
Maryam
what is creatinine?
Haider
Creatinine is a waste product produced in the body during muscle metabolism. This waste product is expelled from the body through urine. Here is it's formula:  C4H7N3O
Maryam
Formula: C4H7N3O
Maryam
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Haider
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Stephen
Outline the process of cell in the body interms of it's function.
Aliruku Reply
what communication method used mainly by plants
Jerda Reply
what is biology
james Reply
Biology is the study of life
Omoloju
define nerve impulse
Karlin Reply
A nerve impulse is the way nerve cells (neurons) communicate with one another. Nerve impulsesare mostly electrical signals along the dendrites to produce a nerve impulse or action potential. The action potential is the result of ions moving in and out of the cell.
Sam
What is the Molecular Biology?
Service Reply
The branch of biology that deals with the structure and function of the macromolecules (e.g. proteins and nucleic acids) essential to life.
Sam
what is botany
Sillah
Description Description Botany, also called plant science, plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant life and a branch of biology. A botanist, plant scientist or phytologist is a scientist who specialises in this field.
Sam
what is the difference between mitosis and meiosis?
Fatima Reply
what is an element
Saidu Reply
Element is any one of the simplest chemical substances that cannot be decomposed in a chemical reaction.
Lucky
an element is a substance that cannot be broken down into any other substance
Akosua
explain why only one sperm fertilisers the ovum
Frazzy Reply
its because other sperms are destroyed on the way
Nasib
A test tube is full of a colourless gas that puts a lighted wooden splint.what gas is this?
Jerda
what is cell
Dau Reply
Cell is the smallest unit of life
Yodit
cell refers of the basic, structural and function unit of an organism
jacob
smallest functional unit of an organism
Nasib
is the smallest basic unit of life
Tuhemwe
Is a basic unit of life
James
It's the basic, structural and functional unit of life/living organisms
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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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