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4 The Building
Blocks of Life

Organic Chemistry !
Life on earth is considered carbon-based
Organic chemistry is the study of organic
compounds compounds that contain carbon.!
Because carbon has 4 valence
electrons, carbon atoms bond
together to form a variety of
important organic compounds.!

Macromolecules are large molecules
that are formed by joining smaller
organic molecules together.!

Polymers are molecules

made from repeating units
of identical or nearly
identical compounds called

Macromolecules are organized

into four major categories:
Carbohydrates (sugars)!
Lipids (fats)!
Proteins (meat)!
Nucleic acids (DNA & RNA)!

composed of a ratio of !
1 carbon : 2 hydrogen : 1 oxygen !
(CH2O)n !

Carbohydrates are an energy source

as well as providing cellular support in
plants, fungi, and animals. !

Simple sugars with 3-7
CH2O units!
ex: glucose!

Disaccharides: two
joined together!
ex: sucrose and

Polysaccharides: even longer

chains of carbohydrates!

Lipids are molecules made mostly of
carbon and hydrogen that make up the
fats, oils, and waxes. !
Lipids store energy, and are also used
to prevent water loss in plants and form
the honeycomb in beehives.

Saturated and Unsaturated fatsThe basic structure of a lipid includes a polar head
and fatty acid tails.
Lipids with single bonds are called saturated fats.
Lipids with one double bond are called
unsaturated fats.
Lipids with more than one double bond are called
polyunsaturated fats.


steroidsEx: cholesterol and


make up the cell membrane

Proteins are made of smaller carbon
compounds called amino acids.!
Amino acids are made of carbon,
nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, and
sometimes sulfur.
There are 20 different amino acids that are combined in
different orders and arranged to make proteins.

Proteins make up about 15% of your body

mass, including muscles, skin, and hair. !
Proteins provide structural support in
cells, transport substances within and
between cells, send communication
signals within and between cells, speed up
chemical reactions, and control cell
growth. !

Levels of Organization
Proteins have four levels of structure.
A proteins primary structure is the
sequence of its amino acids.
Secondary structure is the folding or
coiling of the polypeptide chain.

Levels of Organization
Tertiary structure is the complete,
three-dimensional arrangement of a
polypeptide chain.
Proteins with more than one chain have
a quaternary level of structure, which
describes the way in which the different
polypeptide chains are arranged with
respect to each other. (For example,
the protein shown, hemoglobin,
consists of four subunits.)

Nucleic acids
Nucleic acids transmit and store
genetic information.!
Nucleic acids are composed of
smaller repeating subunits
composed of carbon, nitrogen,
oxygen, phosphorus, and
hydrogen called nucleotides.!

There are 5 major nucleotides which have 3 units

- phosphate group
- nitrogenous base
- ribose sugar.!

There are two types of nucleic

acids in living organisms:!
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)!
Ribonucleic acid (RNA)

A nucleotide with three phosphate

groups is adenosine triphosphate
(ATP) which is how the cell stores