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What Is Organic Chemistry?

  • Life is based on carbon; organic chemistry studies compounds in which carbon is a central element.

  • The properties of carbon make it the backbone of the organic molecules which form living matter.

    • Carbon is a such a versatile element because it can form four covalent bonds.

    • Carbon skeletons can vary in length, branching, and ring structure.

    • The functional groups of organic molecules are the parts involved in chemical reactions.

    • Organic molecules important for life include relatively small monomers as well as large polymers.

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Which Organic Molecules Are Important for Life?

  • Carbohydrates are a class of important organic molecules that provide energy and structure.

  • Lipids are a large class of hydrophobic organic molecules.

  • Proteins are crucial to life and perform a wide range of functions.

    • Amino acids are the building blocks of polypeptide chains which fold to form proteins.

    • Shape is critical for protein function and creates specific regions called domains; a protein that is denatured loses its domains and the ability to function.

    • Protein denaturation causes proteins to unfold and clump in a random configuration; understanding the denaturation process helps in understanding the structure of intact proteins.

    • Proteins can combine with other macromolecules to form lipoproteins and glycoproteins.

  • Nucleic acids are the primary information-bearing molecules of life.

    • Nucleotides, the building blocks of nucleic acids, are also important as energy carriers.

    • The nucleic acid DNA is composed of two chains of nucleotides in a helical structure; RNA is a similar nucleic acid of equal importance.

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