Fatty Acids and Triacylglycerides

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Triglycerides are composed of a glycerol molecule attached to three fatty acids by a dehydration synthesis reaction.

Source: OpenStax Microbiology

The fatty acids are lipids that contain long-chain hydrocarbons terminated with a carboxylic acid functional group. Because the long hydrocarbon chain, fatty acids are hydrophobic (“water fearing”) or nonpolar. Fatty acids with hydrocarbon chains that contain only single bonds are called saturated fatty acids because they have the greatest number of hydrogen atoms possible and are, therefore, “saturated” with hydrogen. Fatty acids with hydrocarbon chains containing at least one double bond are called unsaturated fatty acids because they have fewer hydrogen atoms. Saturated fatty acids have a straight, flexible carbon backbone, whereas unsaturated fatty acids have “kinks” in their carbon skeleton because each double bond causes a rigid bend of the carbon skeleton. These differences in saturated versus unsaturated fatty acid structure result in different properties for the corresponding lipids in which the fatty acids are incorporated. For example, lipids containing saturated fatty acids are solids at room temperature, whereas lipids containing unsaturated fatty acids are liquids.

A triacylglycerol, or triglyceride, is formed when three fatty acids are chemically linked to a glycerol molecule. Triglycerides are the primary components of adipose tissue (body fat), and are major constituents of sebum (skin oils). They play an important metabolic role, serving as efficient energy-storage molecules that can provide more than double the caloric content of both carbohydrates and proteins.

Source:

Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology

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