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Lipid Function and Structure

Lipids are compounds that are hydrophobic (do not dissolve in water). They have many functions in the cell including being involved in cell signaling and making up the cell membrane.

Fatty acids are types of lipids that can be found in many different roles in our body including energy storage.

Fatty acids consist of hydrocarbon chain with carboxylic acid at the end. Thus fatty acids are called amphiphilic (they have both hydrophobic and hydrophilic parts). Fatty acids can be saturated (all single bonds) or unsaturated (have double bonds).

Triacylglycerol molecules can be found in dispose (fat) cells and are used to store energy. In triacylglycerol, there are three fatty acids that are bound to a glycerol molecule with ester bonds.

Phospholipids, on the other hand, make up the cell membrane. Phopholipids consist of two fatty acid linked to the glycerol and a phosphate group attached to the third OH on the glycerol. Thus phospholipids have a very polar "head" and non polar "tail".

Sterols are another type of lipid that are present in the membranes of most eukaryotic cells. Sterols are precursors to many biologically important molecules such as steroid hormones. Sterols consist of four fused hydrocarbon rings.

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