Polysaccharides

Most carbohydrates found in nature occur as polysac-charides, polymers of medium to high molecular weight. Polysaccharides, also called glycans, differ from each other in the identity of their recurring monosaccharide units, in the length of their chains, in the types of bonds linking the units, and in the degree of branching. Homopolysaccharides contain only a single type of monomer; heteropolysaccharides contain two or more different kinds (Fig. 7-13). Some homopolysaccharides serve as storage forms of monosaccharides that are used as fuels; starch and glycogen are homopolysaccharides of this type. Other homopolysaccharides (cellulose and chitin,

Two monomer types, unbranched monomer types, branched

FIGURE 7-13 Homo- and heteropolysaccharides. Polysaccharides may be composed of one, two, or several different monosaccharides, in straight or branched chains of varying length.

for example) serve as structural elements in plant cell walls and animal exoskeletons. Heteropolysaccharides provide extracellular support for organisms of all kingdoms. For example, the rigid layer of the bacterial cell envelope (the peptidoglycan) is composed in part of a heteropolysaccharide built from two alternating mono-saccharide units. In animal tissues, the extracellular space is occupied by several types of heteropolysac-charides, which form a matrix that holds individual cells together and provides protection, shape, and support to cells, tissues, and organs.

Unlike proteins, polysaccharides generally do not have definite molecular weights. This difference is a consequence of the mechanisms of assembly of the two types of polymers. As we shall see in Chapter 27, proteins are synthesized on a template (messenger RNA) of defined sequence and length, by enzymes that follow the template exactly. For polysaccharide synthesis there is no template; rather, the program for polysaccharide synthesis is intrinsic to the enzymes that catalyze the polymerization of the monomeric units, and there is no specific stopping point in the synthetic process.

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Low Carb Diets Explained

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