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Additional recommended knowledge
The term glycerophospholipid signifies any derivative of sn-glycero-3-phosphoric acid that contains at least one O-acyl, or O-alkyl or O-alk-1'-enyl residue attached to the glycerol moiety and a polar head made of a nitrogenous base, a glycerol, or an inositol unit.
It contains a glycerol core with fatty acids. They can be the same or different subunits of fatty acids.
Nomenclature and stereochemistry
Glycerophospholipids generally use a "sn" notation which stands for stereochemical numbering. When the letters "sn" appear in the nomenclature, by convention the hydroxyl group of the second carbon of glycerol (sn-2) is on the left on a Fischer projection. The numbering follows the one of Fischer's projections, being sn-1 the carbon at the top and sn-3 the one at the bottom.
The advantage of this particular notation is that the spatial conformation (R or L) of the glycero-molecule is determined intuitively by the residues on the positions sn-1 and sn-3.
Examples of glycerophospholipids
Use in membranes
One of a glycerophospholipid's functions is to serve as a structural component of cell membranes. The cell membrane seen under the electron microscope consists of two identifiable layers, or "leaflets", each of which is made up of an ordered row of glycerophospholipid molecules. The composition of each layer can vary widely depending on the type of cell.
Each glycerophospholipid molecule consists of a small polar head group and two long hydrophobic chains. In the cell membrane, the two layers of phospholipids are arranged as follows:
This is a stable structure because the ionic hydrophilic head groups interact with the aqueous media inside and outside the cell, whereas the hydrophobic tails maximize hydrophobic interactions with each other and are kept away from the aqueous environments. The overall result of this structure is to construct a fatty barrier between the cell's interior and its surroundings.
Use in emulsification
Glycerophospholipids can also act as an emulsifying agent to promote dispersal of one substance into another. This is sometimes used in candy making.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Glycerophospholipid". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|