1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Carbohydrates

Chemistry of Carbohydrates

By

Sugar is a well-known carbohydrate.

Sugar is a well-known carbohydrate.

Mark Webb, stock.xchng This is the chemical structure of lactose, a disaccharide found in milk.

Carbohydrates or saccharides are the most abundant class of biomolecules. This is the chemical structure of lactose, a disaccharide found in milk.

Calvero, Creative Commons License

Carbohydrates or saccharides are the most abundant class of biomolecules. Carbohydrates are used to store energy, though they serve other important functions as well. This is an overview of carbohydrate chemistry, including a look at the types of carbohydrates, their functions, and carbohydrate classification.

What Is a Carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are a common class of simple organic compouds. A carbohydrate is an aldehyde or a ketone that has additional hydroxyl groups. The simplest carbohydrates are called monosaccharides, which has the basic structure (C·H2O)n, where n is three or greater. Monosaccharides link together to form oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. Two monosaccharides link together to form a disaccharide.

Functions of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates serve several biochemical functions:
  • Monosaccharides are a fuel for celular metabolism.

     

  • Monosaccharides are used in several biosynthesis reactions.

     

  • Monosaccharides may be converted into space-saving polysaccharides, such as glyocogen and starch. These molecules provide stored energy for plant and animal cells.

     

  • Carbohydrates are used to form structural elements, such as chitin in animals and cellulose in plants.

     

  • Carbohydrates and modified carbohydrates are important for an organism's fertilization, development, blood clotting and immune system function.

Examples of Carbohydrates

Monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose

Disaccharides: sucrose, lactose

Polysaccharides: chitin, cellulose

Carbohydrate Classification

Three characteristics are used to classify monosaccharides:
  • number of carbon atoms in the molecule
  • location of the carbonyl group
  • the chirality of the carbohydrate
aldose - monosaccharide in which the carbonyl group is an aldehyde

ketone - monosaccharide in which the carbonyl group is a ketone

triose - monosaccharide with 3 carbon atoms

tetrose - monosaccharide with 4 carbon atoms

pentose - monosaccharide with 5 carbon atoms

hexose - monosaccharide with 6 carbon atoms

aldohexose - 6-carbon aldehyde (e.g., glucose)

aldopentose - 5-carbon aldehyde (e.g., ribose)

ketohexose - 6-carbon hexose (e.g., fructose)

A monosaccharide is D or L depending on the orientation of the asymmetric carbon located furthest from the carbonyl group. In a D sugar, the hydroxyl group is on the right the molecule when written as a Fischer projection. If the hydroxyl group is on the left of the molecule, then it is an L sugar.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.