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Understand what a macromolecule is and be able to identify both organic and inorganic macromolecules. Organic molecules include proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids.


A macromolecule is a huge molecule made up of smaller subunits called monomers. Many macromolecules are made up of polymers through polymerization.

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Polymerization is just when two or more monomers join through a chemical reaction to make a macromolecule.Organic macromolecules are huge molecules that include carbon that are found in living things. They include ones you are probably aware of: proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. There are fewer inorganic macromolecules and most of these are synthetic (manmade).

These are things like rubber, polypropylene and polyethylene.

Organic Macromolecules

In a condensation reaction, two molecules combine and lose a small molecule in the process
Condensation Reaction

Proteins are formed through a condensation reaction between amino acid monomers. A condensation reaction is when two molecules combine to form a larger molecule but lose a small molecule, kind of like a waste product. Proteins provide energy for the body, are hormones, make up your hair, tendons and ligaments and act as enzymes.

Enzymes are substances that increase the speed of metabolic reactions in the body. Without them, reactions would happen too slowly for life to exist in the way we know it. For example, the body needs to rid the blood of excess CO2 by delivering it to the lungs to be expelled. The reaction that needs to happen is CO2 (carbon dioxide) combining with H2 O (water) to form H2 CO3 (carbonic acid).

This reaction is extremely slow without an enzyme – only about 2000 molecules of carbonic acid can be produced per hour. The body needs millions produced per hour to clear the blood of CO2. The enzyme carbonic anhydrase speeds up the reaction to meet the body’s need.Although a varied group, lipids, also known as fats, share one characteristic among them: they are not very soluble in water. Lipids are hydrophobic, meaning they hate water, and contain a lot of C-H bonds. Lipids are sources of energy for the body and also are a large part of cell membranes. In addition, they add a lot of flavor to food.

That’s why high-fat foods taste so good. Steroids are lipids that are made from cholesterol. Steroids can be good things, like when they occur naturally in the body and regulate your metabolism, immune response or reproductive cycle. They can also be bad for you, like when athletes use them to illegally improve their performance but end up having acne, liver damage and high blood pressure.

Carbohydrates can be made up of simple sugars, such as fructose and glucose
Carbohydrate Sugars

Carbohydrates are sugars and starches. These polysaccharides are made up of monomer monosaccharides, or simple sugars, like fructose and glucose.

Carbohydrates contain only C, H and O. Carbohydrates are also sources of energy. Starch is a polysaccharide containing long chains of linked glucose molecules.

Carbohydrates are a storehouse of energy. We evolved to crave carbs as a source of much-needed calories. These days, of course, food is not in short supply for most of us, so this craving for carbs and sugars helps us pack on the weight.Nucleic acids are made up of nucleotide monomers. A nucleotide has three parts – a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar and a nitrogen base.

All of your cells contain nucleic acids. Nucleic acids transmit genetic information through DNA and RNA.

Inorganic Macromolecules

An inorganic macromolecule is a huge molecule not found in living things. As mentioned before, there are far fewer inorganic macromolecules, and most are manmade.

Natural rubber comes from a tree, but it is also a manufactured macromolecule made from a variety of petroleum-based monomers.Polypropylene and polyethylene are plastic polymers used in millions of everyday things, like Tupperware, auto parts, packaging and loudspeakers. Polypropylene is even used in textiles, like long underwear.

Graphite carbon is bonded into a sheet structure
Graphite Carbon

A few examples of macromolecules that are held together by covalent bonds rather than intermolecular forces are graphite and diamond. It is interesting that graphite (like the lead in your pencil) and diamond are both pure carbon, but the carbon is bonded into different structures.

Graphite carbon is in a layer or sheet structure, so the covalent bonds are strong in one direction but weak in another. In diamond, the carbon is bonded into tetrahedrons. This structure gives it a huge network of atoms and great strength in all directions.

Lesson Summary

Macromolecules are huge molecules made up of smaller subunits called monomers. There are two types of macromolecules – organic (those found in living things) and inorganic (those found in things not living). Organic macromolecules include four classes – proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and nucleic acids.

There are fewer inorganic macromolecules, and most are synthetic. They include manmade rubber, polyethylene and polypropylene. Two inorganic macromolecules found in nature include graphite and diamond.

Learning Outcome

After viewing this video, you’ll be able to describe the two types of macromolecules (organic and inorganic) and provide examples of each.

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