Overview and Introduction on Fatty Acids – Lipids

by Kevin Ahern, PhD

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    00:01 Though the word 'fat' may strike terror in the hearts of many people, it's true that fats are important storage forms of energy, for animals and oils, in the case of plants.

    00:11 In the picture you can see on the right here, there's an obese mouse and a normal mouse.

    00:15 The obese mouse lacking a gene called leptin that has induced its obesity. Lipids are compounds that include the category of fats and oils and in this talk I'm going to talk about some of those components. These will include fatty acids, glycerol lipids, sphingolipids and polyketides.

    00:35 Now fatty acids are part of what makes a fat molecule and fatty acids are interesting lipids in the sense that they are amphiphilic. Amphiphilic molecules are molecules that have a portion of them that is very polar and can interact with water and another portion of them that's nonpolar and cannot interact with water. Fatty acids of course are used to make soaps.

    01:00 Fatty acids vary in their saturation, saturation referring to the amount of single bonds that it has. The less saturated a fat is, the more double bonds it contains. Fatty acids also vary in their length.

    01:16 Now we can see here the most common fatty acids that are found in cells. These are the saturated fatty acids and you can notice that they differ in size by 2 carbons each, the smallest being lauric acid with 12 carbons, myristic with 14, palmitic acid was 16, stearic with 18 and arachidic acid with 20 carbons. The reason that they differ in carbons by two is that the synthesis of fats occurs with the unit that adds two carbons every time.

    01:46 This is a depiction of the structure of one of the fatty acids here, stearic acid and you can see on the left side a carboxyl group that can ionize at physiological pH. The rest of the molecule contains only carbon and hydrogen and is very nonpolar and it's for this reason that we describe fatty acids as being amphiphilic.

    02:08 Fatty acids are also unsaturated, that is, some fatty acids don't contain all double bonds. Palmotoleic acid for example, contains 16 carbons, but one of the bonds in that molecule is a double bond. Oleic acid contains 18 carbons with one double bond and you can see linoleic has 18 with two double bonds, linolenic 18, with three double bonds and arachidonic acid has 20 carbons with four double bonds. Each of these fatty acids is very important for making fats and the components that make up our membranes.

    02:42 Now, this shows the structure of oleic acid and you can notice the double bond in oleic acid.

    02:46 The biological fatty acids almost always contain the double bond in the cis configuration.

    02:52 Most people have heard of trans fats and trans fats are usually produced as a result of chemical modification of food and have some health risks associated with them. You can see on the screen here a common trans fatty acid known as elaidic acid, compared to oleic acid, and you can notice the difference in shape of these molecules. The cis bond that's contained by normal biologically produced fatty acids has a physical band located inside of it.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Overview and Introduction on Fatty Acids – Lipids by Kevin Ahern, PhD is from the course Biochemistry: Basics.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. They are usually in the cis configuration in cells
    2. They include stearic and palmitic acid
    3. They increase the Tm of the membranes they are found in
    4. They are more common in the membranes of people than those of fish
    1. Elaidic acid
    2. Arachidonic acid
    3. Linoleic acid
    4. Linolenic acid
    5. Oleic acid

    Author of lecture Overview and Introduction on Fatty Acids – Lipids

     Kevin Ahern, PhD

    Kevin Ahern, PhD

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