Q:

How do phospholipids differ from triglycerides?

A:

Quick Answer

Both phospholipids and triglycerides have an glycerol group to which their other functional groups are attached, but where triglycerides have three fatty acid chains bonded to the glycerol, phospholipids replace one of the fatty acid chains with a phosphate group. This has significant chemical repercussions, with phospholipids being both polar at their phosphate group and non-polar at their fatty acids. Both types of lipid are very important in biological systems; phospholipids in particular are the main structural element in cell membranes.

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Full Answer

Triglycerides compose both animal and plant fats and oils and are the main type of energy storage for many types of organisms, along with having various uses in insulating against extreme temperatures. The main difference between fats and oils is simply melting temperature, with oils being liquid at room temperature and fats being solid at room temperature. Many waxes are also triglycerides, with the only real difference being that they are even more solid than fats at normal temperatures.

Phospholipids are ubiquitous in life because of their role in cell membranes, forming bilayers with their hydrophilic phosphorus group ends facing both the exterior and interior of the cells and their hydrophobic fatty acid chains facing each other. Phospholipids in aqueous solutions spontaneously form similar structures when agitated.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the function of phospholipids?

    A:

    The most important function of phospholipids is to form the phospholipid bilayer of the plasma membrane. In this bilayer, phospholipids are arranged so that their hydrophobic heads are pointing outwards and their hydrophilic tails are pointing inwards. This arrangement allows plasma membranes to be selectively permeable to solutes such as proteins, ions and water.

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  • Q:

    Where are phospholipids found?

    A:

    Phospholipids are found in the cell membranes of organisms, where they form the lipid bilayer surrounding the cell. They also make up most of the structure of biological membranes in general.

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  • Q:

    What is glycerol a subunit molecule of?

    A:

    Glycerol is a subunit of lipid molecules, including triglycerides. Triglycerides consist of a glycerol backbone that has been attached to three fatty acid chains. Fatty acids are carboxylic acids with long carbon chains.

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  • Q:

    How do lipids store energy?

    A:

    Lipids use the triglycerides within their makeup to store energy for later use. In humans, this energy is stored within the cells that are known as fatty cells.

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