Phospholipids

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Phospholipids are similar in overall structure to triglycerides, with one important difference. The third hydroxyl group of glycerol, rather than being attached to a fatty acid, is linked to phosphate. In addition, a small polar or ionized nitrogen-containing molecule is usually attached to this phosphate. These groups constitute a polar (hydrophilic) region at one end of the phospholipid, whereas the fatty acid chains provide a nonpolar (hydrophobic) region at the opposite end. Therefore, phospholipids are amphipathic. In water, they become organized into clusters, with their polar ends attracted to the water molecules.