Summary and test questions


Current scientific evidence indicates that life as we know it cannot exist without water, and that life on Earth originated in the water of the planet’s primordial oceans. Earth began forming about 4.6 billion years ago, and the first signs of life are 3.8–4 billion years old.

Matter is composed of atoms. Each atom consists of a positively charged nucleus of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons bearing negative charges. There are many elements in nature, but only a few of them make up the bulk of living systems. Isotopes of an element differ in their numbers of neutrons. Some isotopes are radioactive, emitting radiation as they decay. Electrons are distributed in shells consisting of orbitals. Each orbital contains a maximum of two electrons. In losing, gaining, or sharing electrons to become more stable, an atom can combine with other atoms to form molecules.

Covalent bonds are strong bonds formed when two atomic nuclei share one or more pairs of electrons. Covalent bonds have spatial orientations that give molecules three-dimensional shapes. Nonpolar covalent bonds are formed when the electronegativities of two atoms are approximately equal. When atoms with strong electronegativity (such as oxygen) bond to atoms with weaker electronegativity (such as hydrogen), a polar covalent bond is formed, in which one end is D+ and the other is D–. Hydrogen bonds are weak electrical attractions that form between a D+ hydrogen atom in one molecule and a D– nitrogen or oxygen atom in another molecule or in another part of a large molecule. Hydrogen bonds are abundant in water. Ions are electrically charged bodies that form when an atom gains or loses one or more electrons. Ionic bonds are electrical attractions between oppositely charged ions. Ionic bonds are strong in solids, but weaker when the ions are separated from one another in solution. Nonpolar molecules interact very little with polar molecules, including water. Nonpolar molecules are attracted to one another by very weak bonds called van der Waals forces.


Test questions

1. The most abundant molecule in the cell is

a. carbohydrate.

b. lipid.

c. nucleic acid.

d. protein.

e. water.


2. All lipids are

a. triglycerides.

b. polar.

c. hydrophilic.

d. polymers of fatty acids.

e. more soluble in nonpolar solvents than in water.


3. All carbohydrates

a. are polymers.

b. are simple sugars.

c. consist of one or more simple sugars.

d. are found in biological membranes.

e. are more soluble in nonpolar solvents than in water.


4. Which of the following is not a carbohydrate?

a. Glucose

b. Starch

c. Cellulose

d. Hemoglobin

e. Deoxyribose


5. All proteins

a. are enzymes.

b. consist of one or more polypeptides.

c. are amino acids.

d. have quaternary structures.

e. are more soluble in nonpolar solvents than in water.


6. Which of the following statements about the primary structure

of a protein is not true?

a. It may be branched.

b. It is determined by the structure of the corresponding DNA.

c. It is unique to that protein.

d. It determines the tertiary structure of the protein.

e. It is the sequence of amino acids in the protein.


7. The amino acid leucine

a. is found in all proteins.

b. cannot form peptide linkages.

c. is likely to appear in the part of a membrane protein that

lies within the phospholipid bilayer.

d. is likely to appear in the part of a membrane protein that

lies outside the phospholipid bilayer.

e. is identical to the amino acid lysine.


8. The quaternary structure of a protein

a. consists of four subunits—hence the name quaternary.

b. is unrelated to the function of the protein.

c. may be either alpha or beta.

d. depends on covalent bonding among the subunits.

e. depends on the primary structures of the subunits.


9. All nucleic acids

a. are polymers of nucleotides.

b. are polymers of amino acids.

c. are double-stranded.

d. are double-helical.

e. contain deoxyribose.


10. Which of the following statements about condensation

reactions is not true?

a. Protein synthesis results from them.

b. Polysaccharide synthesis results from them.

c. Nucleic acid synthesis results from them.

d. They consume water as a reactant.

e. Different condensation reactions produce different kinds of


For Discussion

1. Phospholipids make up a major part of most biological membranes; cellulose is the major constituent of the cell walls of plants. How do the chemical structures and physical propertiesof phospholipids and cellulose relate to their functions in cells?

2. Suppose that, in a given protein, one lysine is replaced by aspartic acid. Does this change occur in the primary structure or in the secondary structure? How might it result in a change in tertiary structure? In quaternary structure?

3. If there are 20 different amino acids commonly found in proteins, how many different dipeptides are there? How many different tripeptides? How many different trinucleotides? How many different single-stranded RNAs composed of 200 nucleotides?

4. Contrast the following three structures, emphasizing the surfaces they present to their environment: hemoglobin; a DNA molecule; a protein that spans a biological membrane.

5. Why might RNA have preceded proteins in the evolution of biological macromolecules?


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