Chemistry of Life

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Life as we know it requires water, and is based on the chemistry of organic molecules. To be “organic” (as opposed to “inorganic”), a molecule must contain carbon. For example, vinegar (CH3CH2OH) is organic, whereas water (H2O), though something organisms depend on, is not. Cells and their organelles are made out of organic molecules commonly called biochemicals.

To form chemical compounds, atoms bond together, producing stable structures. To achieve this, the electron configurations around the various nuclei in the compound must also be stable. This stability is achieved by sharing electrons between the atoms. A covalent bond forms when the atoms share the electrons reasonably equally. The alternative is called an ionic bond, where one atom actually loses the use of one or more electrons to another atom. In between these two extremes, bonds are termed polar covalent. Molecules with polar covalent bonds have dipoles, regions with slight positive and negative natures (abbreviated δ+ and δ- respectively).

With this as a starting point, the Chemistry of Life study guide unit takes a close look at water and its properties before examining the relationship between hydrolysis and dehydration synthesis reactions. This information is put immediately into context, as the four major classes of biochemicals, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids are considered in terms of their structures and functions, with a particular emphasis on human systems. This study unit concludes with a look at ATP and how it is used as an energy storage molecule in cells.

Chemistry of Life is excerpted from our Biology 12 Study Guide, which is the sixth edition of a student study guide written to match the curriculum of British Columbia. The concepts presented are applicable to the biology curricula of other educational jurisdictions as well.

As with each of the biology study guide units in this series, this unit contains:

  • Biological terms linked to a Glossary where they are carefully and contextually defined
  • Biological names in the Glossary linked to a useful Taxonomic Guide
  • Diagrams that display fullscreen views when double-tapped
  • Quiz-view formats of many diagrams in the enhanced version
  • Sets of Concept Check-up questions dispersed in the unit that are linked to their answers
  • Sets of Discussion Questions dispersed in the unit designed to challenge you as you work through it
  • A concluding set of Check Your Understanding of Concepts multiple choice questions linked to their answers
  • A set of Build Your Understanding questions designed to push you beyond the limitations of this unit.

Note: Discussion Questions and Build Your Understanding questions are not linked to their answers.