Biochemistry and Metabolism

The nutrients required:
Chemical group Role
Carbohydrates Energy storage and supply
Proteins Structure, transport, enzymes, antibodies
Lipids Membranes, energy supply, thermal insulation
Vitamins and minerals Form parts of some larger molecule and take
part in some metabolic reactions, some act as
coenzymes or enzyme activators
Nucleic acids Information molecules, carry genetic instructions
Water Takes part in many reactions, support in plants,

Metabolism is the sum total of all the biochemical reactions taking place in the cells of an organism.
E.g. breaking larger molecules into smaller ones (catabolic reactions e.g. digestion). Reactions that
involve building smaller molecules into larger ones are known as anabolic reactions (e.g. muscle
Biochemistry refers to the chemical reactions involving biological molecules.
Biochemicals and Bond
Carbon has four atoms in its outer shell, so they can gain stability by sharing four electrons with
other atoms. The sharing of the atoms forms strong bonds between the atoms, known as covalent
bonds. The bonded atoms form a molecule. Covalent bonds are formed when electrons are shared
between atoms. The bonds are very strong. Carbon is able to make four covalent bonds e.g.
methane (CH
Monomers and Polymers:
 Biological molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates and nucleic acids are made when many
similar smaller molecules join together.
 Monomers: single, small molecules, which can be joined together to form a polymer. Lipids
are not polymers!
Chemical Group Monomer Polymer
Carbohydrate Monosaccharides (Single
Protein Amino acids Polypeptides and proteins
Nucleic acids Nucleotides DNA and RNA

Condensation and Hydrolysis
Condensation is a chemical reaction that links biological molecules together. This reactions also links
many monomers together to make polymers.
What happens during a condensation reaction?
 A water molecule is released
 A new covalent bond is formed
 A larger molecule is formed by the bonding together of smaller molecules
Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction that splits larger molecules to monomers using water. During
hydrolysis, water is used, a covalent bond is broken and smaller molecules are formed by the
splitting of a larger molecule.
Refer to diagram in Textbook!
Hydrogen Bonds
Hydrogen bonds form when a slightly negatively charged part of a molecule comes close to a slightly
positively charged hydrogen atom in the same or another molecule e.g. in water.

Hydrogen bonds are relatively weak, so they can be broken easily by heat. However, many hydrogen
bonds can stabilise a structure. Covalent bonds are difficult to break.
Functions of carbohydrates in organisms:
 Energy source- energy released from glucose during respiration
 Energy store- e.g. starch
 Structure- e.g. cellulose
 Can also form part of larger molecules such as nucleic acids and glycolipids/glycoprotein
Carbohydrates contain the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
Simple sugars:
 Simplest carbohydrates are called monosaccharides. These are the monomers of
carbohydrates. Monomers join together to form larger carbohydrates.
 All monosaccharides have similar properties (sweet tasting, water soluble and form crystals).
 Monosaccharides are grouped according to the number of carbon atoms in the molecule.
3-carbon monosaccharides Triose sugars
5-carbon monosaccharides Pentose sugars
6-carbon monosaccharides Hexose sugars (commonest) e.g. glucose and
fructose (C

Glucose can be drawn as a chain or a ring structure: this results in some different properties.
Two monosaccharide molecules can be joined together in a condensation reaction, forming a
disaccharide molecule. A glycosidic bond (covalent bond) forms and water is eliminated. The reverse
hydrolysis reaction uses a water molecule to break the glycosidic bond.

Energy and Structure
Glucose molecules can be broken down into water and carbon dioxide in respiration to release
energy, which is used to make ATP. Enzymes are used in the breaking down of glucose.
Glucose + oxygen  carbon dioxide + water + energy
+ 6 O
 6 CO
+ 6 H
O + Energy
Animals and plant cells have enzymes that only break down alpha-glucose and not beta-glucose.
Two alpha-glucose molecules bonded together form a disaccharide called maltose. Lots of glucose
molecules can be joined together to form amylose (1,4-glycosidic bond). The long chains of amylose
coil into a spring, making it compact. Iodine molecules can be trapped in the coils of the spring. This
causes iodine in potassium iodide solution to change colour from yellow/brown to blue/black (starch
test). Amylose is not water soluble like its monomers, glucose.
Consists of a mixture of long, straight-chain amylose molecules and branched amylopectin. Starch is
plants are a mixture of amylose and amylopectin. It is stored in chloroplasts and in membrane-
bound starch granules. Starch can be broken down into glucose, which can be then eventually
respired to release energy.

Glycogen is made up of alpha-glucose subunits. It is large, branched molecule that can be broken
down to release the glucose to be respired. Glycogen differs from amylopectin because that 1-4
linked glucose chains in glycogen tend to be shorter and have many more branches extending from
the chain. This gives glycogen an even more compact structure than starch, and forms glycogen
granules in animal cells (liver and muscles cells).
Energy storage molecules such as glycogen and starch do not dissolve due to their extensive number
of bonds. So their storage does not affect the water potential of the cell. Also these energy
molecules hold the glucose molecules in chains so that they can be easily broken off from the end to
respire when required.
Carbohydrate Polymers
B-glucose molecules can be bonded together in condensation reactions to form a polymer. Alpha-
glucose molecules can also be condensed together to form coiled spring-like chains. However, when
B-glucose molecules condense, the resulting chains are long and straight. They are stronger than the
chains found in amylose. The B-glucose polymer chains are called cellulose chains. Cellulose is only
found in plants.
Cellulose fibres form plant cell walls. Many hydrogen bonds can form between the glucose
monomers as they contain many OH groups. The cellulose molecules can become cross-linked by
hydrogen bonds to from macrofibril bundles (text book diagram—OCR biology). The macrofibrils
have great mechanical strength. These are embedded in a polysaccharide glue of substance called
pectins, to form cell walls.
Structure and functions of plant cell walls
 The cell wall around plant cells gives it great strength and support to the plant.
 The arrangements of macrofibrils allow water to move through and along cell walls and
water can pass in and out easily.
 Cell wall also prevents the plant cells from swelling and bursting. In turgid cells, the cell wall
helps to support the whole plant.
Overview of carbohydrates table in text book (OCR AS biology)