5 Characteristics of Biomolecules

5 Characteristics of BiomoleculesBiomolecules are chemical compounds found in the cells of all living beings. They are generally organic molecules, composed mainly of carbon, as well as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.

What are biomolecules?

They are fundamental components of living organisms. Most of them are macromolecules, that is, large molecules with a fairly complex structure.

Each biomolecule is composed of subunits that determine specific structural characteristics and arrangements within the cell. When they are together and properly organized, these molecules interact to give them the characteristics of living beings.

Characteristics

Biomolecules are molecules that are essential for life and are found in all living organisms. They have unique characteristics that enable them to perform specific functions. Here are some key characteristics of biomolecules:

  1. Complexity: Biomolecules are complex structures made up of smaller subunits. For example, proteins are composed of amino acids, nucleic acids are made up of nucleotides, and carbohydrates are composed of sugar molecules.
  2. Diversity: There is a wide variety of biomolecules, each with its own unique structure and function. Some common types of biomolecules include proteins, nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), carbohydrates, and lipids.
  3. Function: Biomolecules have specific roles in living organisms. For example, proteins are involved in enzymatic reactions, cell signaling, and structural support. Nucleic acids store and transmit genetic information. Carbohydrates provide energy and serve as structural components. Lipids play a role in energy storage, insulation, and cell membrane structure.
  4. Interactions: Biomolecules interact with each other and other molecules in complex ways. They can form chemical bonds, undergo enzymatic reactions, and interact through non-covalent forces such as hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions.
  5. Biological activity: Biomolecules are active participants in cellular processes and are responsible for carrying out essential functions in living organisms. For example, enzymes, which are proteins, catalyze chemical reactions. DNA carries genetic information and directs the synthesis of proteins through RNA.

Understanding the characteristics of biomolecules is crucial in fields such as biochemistry, molecular biology, and medicine. By studying biomolecules, scientists gain insights into the fundamental processes of life and develop applications in areas such as drug discovery, genetic engineering, and biotechnology.

Biomolecules are made up of carbon atoms. They are tens to thousands of carbons united in a carbon chain linked to other chemical elements in smaller quantities.

Carbon atoms are joined together by single or double bonds and form linear, branched or cyclic chains. The way carbons are organized defines their three-dimensional structure, which determines their functions.

The properties of these molecules are also determined by the functional groups (other elements) that are attached to the carbon chain. The main functional groups are:

  • Hydrocarbons: bonds with hydrogen: methyl, ethyl, phenyl groups.
  • Bonds with Oxygen: carboxyl, carbonyl (aldehyde and ketone) groups, ether, ester and others.
  • Bonds with Nitrogen: amine, amide, imidazole groups, etc.
  • Bonds with Sulfur: disulfide groups, sulfhydryl, thioesters, etc.
  • Bonds with Phosphorus: phosphoryl, phosphoanhydride and other groups.

Therefore, the way in which the carbons and functional groups are organized define the three-dimensional structure of the molecule, providing it with specific characteristics and functions.

In this way, the types of union between carbons and other elements, the spatial conformation of the molecule and the functional groups, are very specific.

Furthermore, biomolecules interact in an organized way and if one of the components undergoes any change, this will affect the other related components, creating a compensation or coordinated reaction.

For example, if an enzyme is changed, a chain of reactions will be affected, failing to produce necessary proteins or producing defective proteins.

Biomolecules can be of two types: organic or inorganic.

Classification of biomolecules

Inorganic biomolecules

WATER

No water, no life. On average, it constitutes 70% of the body mass of living beings, although some have more (96% in jellyfish) and others have less (20% in seeds).

Water is used as a chemical reaction medium (many substances dissolve in it), transports substances, gives shape to cells, cushions joints and regulates body temperature.

MINERALS

They form the hard parts of living beings: the shells of mollusks (calcium carbonate) and the skeletons of vertebrates (calcium phosphate).

Others intervene in chemical reactions, maintain the salinity of the body (sodium and potassium chloride), interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses and are part of important molecules, such as hemoglobin in the blood.

Organic biomolecules

GLUCIDS

They are biomolecules composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, with an energetic function, as a kind of “fuel” for living beings, and a structural function, forming part of living beings.

The best known are glucose (honey sugar) and sucrose (cane sugar), which are energetic; starch, which serves as an energy reserve in plants; and cellulose, which forms the walls of plant cells.

LIPIDS

They are made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and other elements, such as phosphorus. Its function is energetic and structural. They are very diverse and perform various functions in the body.

Fats serve as an energy reserve. Phospholipids and cholesterol are part of cell membranes. Some vitamins, such as A and D, are lipids.

PROTEINS

Made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and other elements, they are polymers of smaller biomolecules, amino acids.

Its functions are very varied: collagen in the skin has a structural function, hemoglobin in the blood transports oxygen, antibodies are involved in defense against infections and enzymes regulate chemical reactions in cells.

NUCLEIC ACIDS

Made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus, they are biomolecules made up of long chains of smaller molecules, called nucleotides.

There are two types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). DNA contains genetic information that has encoded several of the characteristics of a living being.

Main biomolecules

  • Proteins: composed of amino acid subunits
  • Lipids: composed of fatty acid subunits and glycerols
  • Carbohydrates or carbohydrates: composed of monosaccharide subunits
  • Nuclear acids or nucleotides: composed of monosaccharide subunits (pentoses), phosphoric acid and nitrogenous bases.
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