Weak Interactions in Aqueous Systems

Hydrogen bonds between water molecules provide the cohesive forces that make water a liquid at room temperature and that favor the extreme ordering of molecules that is typical of crystalline water (ice). Polar bio-molecules dissolve readily in water because they can replace water-water interactions with more energetically favorable water-solute interactions. In contrast, nonpolar biomolecules interfere with water-water interactions but are unable to form water-solute interactions— consequently, nonpolar molecules are poorly soluble in water. In aqueous solutions, nonpolar molecules tend to cluster together.

Hydrogen bonds and ionic, hydrophobic (Greek, "water-fearing"), and van der Waals interactions are individually weak, but collectively they have a very significant influence on the three-dimensional structures of proteins, nucleic acids, polysaccharides, and membrane lipids.

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