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1 Chemical Elements and Water

3.1.1 State that the most frequently occurring chemical

elements in living things are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen
and nitrogen.

Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the most

frequently occurring chemical elements in living things.

3.1.2 State that a variety of other elements are needed

by living organisms, including sulfur, calcium,
phosphorus, iron and sodium.

A variety of other elements are needed by living

organisms, including sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, iron
and sodium.

3.1.3 State one role for each of the elements

mentioned in 3.1.2.

Sulfur: Needed for the synthesis of two amino acids.

Calcium: Acts as a messenger by binding to calmodulin
and a few other proteins which regulate transcription
and other processes in the cell.
Phosphorus: Is part of DNA molecules and is also part of
the phosphate groups in ATP.
Iron: Is needed for the synthesis of cytochromes which
are proteins used during electron transport for aerobic
cell respiration.
Sodium: When it enters the cytoplasm, it raises the
solute concentration which causes water to enter by

3.1.4 Draw and label a diagram showing the structure

of water molecules to show their polarity and hydrogen
bond formation.
3.1.5 Outline the thermal, cohesive and solvent
properties of water.

Thermal properties of water include heat capacity,

boiling and freezing points and the cooling effect of

Water has a large heat capacity which means that a

considerable amount of energy is needed to increase
it’s temperature. This is due to the strength of the
hydrogen bonds which are not easily broken. This is
why the temperature of water tends to remain
relatively stable. It is beneficial for aquatic animals as
they use water as a habitat.
Water has a high boiling and freezing point. It boils at
100 C because the strong hydrogen bonds. All these
hydrogen bonds between the water molecules need to
break for the liquid to change to gas. Water becomes
less dense as it gets closer to the freezing point and so
ice always forms on the surface first. The high boiling
point of water is vital for life on earth as if water boiled
at a lower temperature the water in living organisms
would start to boil and therefore these organisms would
not survive.
The fact that water becomes less dense as it freezes is
beneficial to organisms as ice will always form at the
surface of lakes or seas and by doing so it insulates the
water underneath, maintaining a possible habitat for
organisms to live in.
Water can evaporate at temperatures below the boiling
point. Hydrogen bonds need to break for
this to occur.

Cohesion is the effect of hydrogen bonds holding the

water molecules together. Water moves up plants
because of cohesion. Long columns of water can be
sucked up from roots to leaves without the columns
breaking. The hydrogen bonds keep the water
molecules sticking to each other.
The solvent properties of water mean that many
different substances can dissolve in it because of its

3.1.6 Explain the relationship between the properties of

water and its uses in living organisms as a coolant,
medium for metabolic reactions and transport medium.

Water can evaporate at temperatures below the boiling

point. Hydrogen bonds need to break for this to occur.
The evaporation of water cools body surfaces (sweat)
and plant leaves (transpiration) by using the energy
from liquid water to break the hydrogen bonds. The
solvent properties of water mean that many different
substances can dissolve in it because of its polarity.
This allows substances to be carried in the blood and
sap of plants as they dissolve in water. It also makes
water a good medium for metabolic reactions.

3.2 Carbohydrates, Lipids and Proteins

3.2.1 Distinguish between organic and inorganic


Organic compounds are compounds that are found in living organisms

and contain carbon. Inorganic compounds are the ones that don’t
contain carbon. Although, there are a few compounds found in living
organisms which also contain carbon but are considered as inorganic
compounds. These include carbon dioxide, carbonates and hydrogen

3.2.2 Identify amino acids, glucose, ribose and fatty acids from
diagrams showing their structure.

3.2.3 List three examples of each monosaccharides,

disaccharides and polysaccharides.
• Glucose, galactose and fructose are all
• Maltose, lactose and sucrose are all disaccharides.
• Starch, glycogen and cellulose are all polysaccharides.

3.2.4 State one function of glucose, lactose and glycogen in

animals, and of fructose, sucrose and cellulose in plants.

In animals, glucose is used as an energy source for the body and

lactose is the sugar found in milk which provides energy to new borns
until they are weaned. Finally, glycogen is used as an energy source
(short term only) and is stored in muscles and the liver.

In plants, fructose is what makes fruits taste sweet which attracts

animals and these then eat the fruits and disperse the seeds found in
the fruits. Sucrose is used as an energy source for the plant whereas
cellulose fibers is what makes the plant cell wall strong.

3.2.5 Outline the role of condensation and hydrolysis in the

relationships between monosaccharides, disaccharides and
polysaccharides; between fatty acids, glycerol and
triglycerides; and between amino acids and polypeptides.

3.2.6 State three functions of lipids.
• Lipids can be used for energy storage in the form of fat
in humans and oil in plants.
• Lipids can be used as heat insulation as fat under the
skin reduces heat loss.
• Lipids allow buoyancy as they are less dense than
water and so animals can float in water.

3.2.7 Compare the use of carbohydrates and lipids in energy


Carbohydrates and lipids can both be used as energy storage however

carbohydrates are usually used for short term storage whereas lipids are
used for long term storage. Carbohydrates are soluble in water unlike
lipids. This makes carbohydrates easy to transport around the body
(from and to the store). Also, carbohydrates are a lot easier and more
rapidly digested so their energy is useful if the body requires energy fast.
As for lipids, they are insoluble which makes them more difficult to
transport however because they are insoluble, lipids do not have an
effect on osmosis which prevents problems within the cells in the body.
They also contain more energy per gram than carbohydrates which
makes lipids a lighter store compared to a store of carbohydrates
equivalent in energy.

3.3 DNA Structure

3.3.1 Outline DNA nucleotide structure in terms of

sugar (deoxyribose), base and phosphate.

A nucleotide is made of the sugar deoxyribose, a

base (which can be either adenine, guanine,
cytosine or thymine) and a phosphate group. Below
is a representation of a nucleotide.

3.3.2 State the names of the four bases in DNA.

Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine.

3.3.3 Outline how DNA nucleotides are linked together by
covalent bonds into a single strand.

Below is a diagram showing how nucleotides are linked to one

another to form a strand. A covalent bond forms between the
sugar of one nucleotide and the phosphate group of another

3.3.4 Explain how a DNA double helix is formed

using complementary base pairing and hydrogen

DNA is made up of two nucleotide strands. The

nucleotides are connected together by covalent
bonds within each strand. The sugar of one
nucleotide forms a covalent bond with the
phosphate group of another. The two strands
themselves are connected by hydrogen bonds. The
hydrogen bonds are found between the bases of the
two strands of nucleotides. Adenine forms hydrogen
bonds with thymine whereas guanine forms
hydrogen bonds with cytosine. This is called
complementary base pairing. Below is a digram
showing the molecular structure and bonds within

3.3.5 Draw and label a simple diagram of the

molecular structure of DNA.

3.4 DNA Replication

3.4.1 Explain DNA replication in terms of unwinding

the double helix and separation of the strands by
helicase, followed by formation of the new
complementary strands by DNA polymerase.

DNA replication is semi-conservative as both of the

DNA molecules produced are formed from an old
strand and a new one. The first stage of DNA
replication involves the unwinding of the double
strand of DNA (DNA double helix) and separating
them by breaking the hydrogen bonds between the
bases. This is done by the enzyme helicase. Each
separated strand now is a template for the new
strands. There are many free nucleotides around
the replication fork which then bond to the template
strands. The free nucleotides form hydrogen bonds
with their complimentary base pairs on the template
strand. Adenine will pair up with thymine and
guanine will pair up with cytosine. DNA polymerase
is the enzyme responsible for this. The new DNA
strands then rewind to form a double helix. The
replication process has produced a new DNA
molecule which is identical to the initial one.

3.4.2 Explain the significance of complementary

base pairing in the conservation of the base
sequence of DNA.

Complementary base pairing is very important in

the conservation of the base sequence of DNA. This
is because adenine always pairs up with thymine
and guanine always pairs up with cytosine. As DNA
replication is semi-conservative (one old strand an d
one new strand make up the new DNA molecules),
this complementary base pairing allows the two
DNA molecules to be identical to each other as they
have the same base sequence. The new strands
formed are complementary to their template
strands but also identical to the other template.
Therefore, complementary base pairing has a big
role in the conservation of the base sequence of

3.4.3 State that DNA replication is semi-


DNA replication is semi-conservative.

3.5 Transcript and Translation

3.5.1 Compare the structure of RNA and DNA.

DNA and RNA both consist of nucleotides which

contain a sugar, a base and a phosphate group.
However there are a few differences. Firstly, DNA is
composed of a double strand forming a helix
whereas RNA is only composed of one strand. Also
the sugar in DNA is deoxyribose whereas in RNA it is
ribose. Finally, both DNA and RNA have the bases
adenine, guanine and cytosine. However DNA also
contains thymine which is replaced by uracil in RNA.

3.5.2 Outline DNA transcription in terms of the

formation of an RNA strand complementary to the
DNA strand by RNA polymerase.

DNA transcription is the formation of an RNA strand

which is complementary to the DNA strand. The first
stage of transcription is the uncoiling of the DNA
double helix. Then, the free RNA nucleotides start to
form an RNA strand by using one of the DNA strands
as a template. This is done through complementary
base pairing, however in the RNA chain, the base
thymine is replaced by uracil. RNA polymerase is
the enzyme involved in the formation of the RNA
strand and the uncoiling of the double helix. The
RNA strand then elongates and then separates from
the DNA template. The DNA strands then reform a
double helix. The strand of RNA formed is called
messenger RNA.

3.5.3 Describe the genetic code in terms of codons

composed of triplets of bases.

A triplet of bases (3 bases) forms a codon. Each

codon codes for a particular amino acid. Amino
acids in turn link to form proteins. Therefore DNA
and RNA regulate protein synthesis. The genetic
code is the codons within DNA and RNA, composed
of triplets of bases which eventually lead to protein
3.5.4 Explain the process of translation, leading to
polypeptide formation.

Translation is the process through which proteins

are synthesized. It uses ribosomes, messenger RNA
which is composed of codons and transfer RNA
which has a triplet of bases called the anticodon.
The first stage of translation is the binding of
messenger RNA to the small subunit of the
ribosome. The transfer RNA’s have a specific amino
acid attached to them which corresponds to their
anticodons. A transfer RNA molecule will bind to the
ribosome however it’s anticodon must match the
codon on the messenger RNA. This is done through
complementary base pairing. These two form a
hydrogen bond together. Another transfer RNA
molecule then bonds. Two transfer RNA molecules
can bind at once. Then the two amino acids on the
two transfer RNA molecules form a peptide bond.
The first transfer RNA then detaches from the
ribosome and the second one takes it’s place.The
ribosome moves along the messenger RNA to the
next codon so that another transfer RNA can bind.
Again, a peptide bond is formed between the amino
acids and this process continues. This forms a
polypeptide chain and is the basis of protein

3.5.5 Discuss the relationship between one gene

and one polypeptide.

A polypeptide is formed by amino acids liking

together through peptide bonds. There are 20
different amino acids so a wide range of
polypeptides are possible. Genes store the
information required for making polypeptides. The
information is stored in a coded form by the use of
triplets of bases which form codons. The sequence
of bases in a gene codes for the sequence of amino
acids in a polypeptide. The information in the genes
is decoded during transcription and translation
leading to protein synthesis.

3.6 Enzymes

3.6.1 Define enzyme and active site.

Enzymes: Globular proteins which act as catalysts of

chemical reactions. Active site: Region on the
surface of an enzyme to which substrates bind and
which catalyses a chemical reaction involving the

3.6.2 Explain enzyme–substrate specificity.

The active site of an enzyme is very specific to its

substrates as it has a very precise shape. This
results in enzymes being able to catalyze only
certain reactions as only a small number of
substrates fit in the active site. This is called
enzyme-substrate specificity. For a substrate to bind
to the active site of an enzyme it must fit in the
active site and be chemically attracted to it. This
makes the enzyme very specific to it’s substrate.
The enzyme-substrate complex can be compared to
a lock and key, where the enzyme is the lock and
the substrate is the key.

3.6.3 Explain the effects of temperature, pH and

substrate concentration on enzyme activity.
Enzyme activity increases with an increase in
temperature and usually doubles with every 10
degrees rise. This is due to the molecules moving
faster and colliding more often together. However at
a certain point the temperature gets to high and the
enzymes denature and stop functioning. This is due
to the heat causing vibrations within the enzyme
destroying its structure by breaking the bonds in the

Enzymes usually have an optimum pH at which they

work most efficiently. As the pH diverges from the
optimum, enzyme activity decreases. Both acid and
alkali environments can denature enzymes.

Enzyme activity increases with an increase in

substrate concentration as there are more random
collisions between the substrate and the active site.
However, at some point, all the active sites are
taken up and so increasing the substrate
concentration will have no more effect on enzyme
activity. As long as there are active sites available,
an increase in substrate concentration will lead to
an increase in enzyme activity.

3.6.4 Define denaturation.

Denaturation is changing the structure of an

enzyme (or other protein) so it can no longer carry
out its function.

3.6.5 Explain the use of lactase in the production of

lactose-free milk.
Lactose is the sugar found in milk. It can be broken
down by the enzyme lactase into glucose and
galactose. However some people lack this enzyme
and so cannot break down lactose leading to lactose
intolerance. Lactose intolerant people need to drink
milk that has been lactose reduced. Lactose-free
milk can be made in two ways. The first involves
adding the enzyme lactase to the milk so that the
milk contains the enzyme. The second way involves
immobilizing the enzyme on a surface or in beads of
a porous material. The milk is then allowed to flow
past the beads or surface with the immobilized
lactase. This method avoids having lactase in the

3.7 Cell Respiration

3.7.1 Define cell respiration

Cell respiration is the controlled release of energy

from organic compounds in cells to form ATP.

3.7.2 State that, in cell respiration, glucose in the

cytoplasm is broken down by glycolysis into
pyruvate, with a small yield of ATP.

In cell respiration, glucose in the cytoplasm is

broken down by glycolysis into pyruvate with a
small yield of ATP.

3.7.3 Explain that, during anaerobic cell respiration,

pyruvate can be converted in the cytoplasm into
lactate, or ethanol and carbon dioxide, with no
further yield of ATP.
In anaerobic cell respiration the pyruvate stays in
the cytoplasm and in humans is converted into
lactate which is the removed from the cell. In yeast
the pyruvate is converted into carbon dioxide and
ethanol. In either case, no ATP is produced.

3.7.4 Explain that, during aerobic cell respiration,

pyruvate can be broken down in the mitochondrion
into carbon dioxide and water with a large yield of

If oxygen is available, the pyruvate is taken up into

the mitochondria and is broken down into carbon
dioxide and water. A large amount of ATP is
released during this process.

3.8 Photosynthesis

3.8.1 State that photosynthesis involves the

conversion of light energy into chemical energy.

Photosynthesis involves the conversion of light

energy into chemical energy.

3.8.2 State that light from the Sun is composed of a

range of wavelengths (colours).

The light from the sun is composed of a range of

wavelengths (colours).

3.8.3 State that chlorophyll is the main

photosynthetic pigment.

Chlorophyll is the main photosynthetic pigment.

3.8.4 Outline the differences in absorption of red,
blue and green light by chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll can absorb red and blue light more than

green. Chlorophyll cannot absorb green light and so
instead reflects it making leaves look green.

3.8.5 State that light energy is used to produce ATP,

and to split water molecules (photolysis) to form
oxygen and hydrogen.

Light energy is used to produced ATP and to split

water molecules (photolysis) to form oxygen and

3.8.6 State that ATP and hydrogen (derived from the

photolysis of water) are used to fix carbon dioxide to
make organic molecules.

ATP and hydrogen derived from photolysis of water

are used to fix carbon dioxide to make organic

3.8.7 Explain that the rate of photosynthesis can be

measured directly by the production of oxygen or
the uptake of carbon dioxide, or indirectly by an
increase in biomass.

Photosynthesis can be measured in many ways as it

involves the production of oxygen, the uptake of
carbon dioxide and an increase in biomass. For
example, aquatic plants release oxygen bubbles
during photosynthesis and so these can be collected
and measured. The uptake of carbon dioxide is
more difficult to measure so it is usually done
indirectly. When carbon dioxide is absorbed from
water the pH of the water rises and so this can be
measured with pH indicators or pH meters. Finally,
photosynthesis can be measured through an
increase in biomass. If batches of plants are
harvested at a series of times and the biomass of
these batches is calculated, the rate increase in
biomass gives an indirect measure of the rate of
photosynthesis in the plants.

3.8.8 Outline the effects of temperature, light

intensity and carbon dioxide concentration on the
rate of photosynthesis.

As temperature increases, the rate of

photosynthesis increases more and more steeply
until the optimum temperature is reached. If
temperature keeps increasing above the optimum
temperature then photosynthesis starts to decrease
very rapidly.
As light intensity increases so does photosynthesis
until a certain point. At a high light intensities
photosynthesis reaches a plateau and so does not
increase any more. At low and medium light
intensity the rate of photosynthesis is directly
proportional to the light intensity.
As the carbon dioxide concentration increases so
does the rate of photosynthesis. There is no
photosynthesis at very low levels of carbon dioxide
and at high levels the rate reaches a plateau.