The Diversity of Polymers


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The Diversity of Polymers (Campbell Biology)

A cell has thousands of different macromolecules; the collection varies from one type of cell to another. The inherited differences between close relatives, such as human siblings, reflect small variations in polymers, particularly DNA and proteins. Molecular differences between unrelated individuals are more extensive, and those between species greater still. The diversity of macromolecules in the living world is vast, and the possible variety is effectively limitless.

What is the basis for such diversity in life’s polymers? These molecules are constructed from only 40 to 50 common monomers and some others that occur rarely. Building a huge variety of polymers from such a limited number of monomers is analogous to constructing hundreds of thousands of words from only 26 letters of the alphabet. The key is arrangement—the particular linear sequence that the units follow. However, this analogy falls far short of describing the great diversity of macromolecules because most biological polymers have many more monomers than the number of letters in even the longest word. Proteins, for example, are built from 20 kinds of amino acids arranged in chains that are typically hundreds of amino acids long. The molecular logic of life is simple but elegant: Small molecules common to all organisms act as building blocks that are ordered into unique macromolecules.


Urry, Lisa A.. Campbell Biology. Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.


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