Phospholipids.

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Phospholipid. Phospholipids are like tri-glycerides except that the first hydroxyl of the glycerine molecule has a polar phosphate containing group in place of the fatty acid. This means that phospholipids have a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tail and this is important because phospholids self assemble in water into a bi-layer. The Biochemical Gallery's opening illustration is of a phospholipid bi-layer forming because of the interaction between the phospholipids and water. This tendency to form bi-layers is the basis of the cell membrane characteristic of all living things at least on earth and is an example of self assembly.

Diagrammatic view of a phospholipid. Note that part of the molecule is hydrophobic(the carbon backbones from the two organic acids) and the other part, the head is hydrophilic. This is important in that phospholipids organize themselves into bi layers when placed in water.

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To the left is a model of two phospholipids side by side. The phosphorus atoms are orange. Blue is nitrogen. The second fatty acid chain of the upper phospholipid is obscured in this view.

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pgd. revised 7/15//99