Lipids room a family of compounds whose diversity is likewise made possible by building complex molecules from multiple units of simpler molecules, and once again one look at characteristic rings and also chains.

You are watching: Why don t lipids dissolve in water

Polar and Non-polar Molecules

You have actually probably heard the expression "oil and water don"t mix," and also you have actually observed just how salad dressing written of vinegar (which is aqueous, i.e., mainly water) and also oil will certainly separate as soon as left to stand. This incompatibility is due to the fact that water molecules space polar, but oil is non-polar. Water is a polar molecule due to the fact that the negatively charged electrons that spin roughly the nuclei of the atoms space not evenly distributed. The oxygen atom has actually much more mass than the 2 hydrogen atoms, and also therefore the electrons spend more time in the vicinity the the oxygen atom. As a result, the finish of the water molecule whereby oxygen is located is relatively an unfavorable in charge, vice versa, the finish with hydrogens is relatively positively charged. The confident ends the the water molecule are attracted come the an adverse ends of surrounding water molecules, as displayed in the figure below, and also this permits water molecule to coalesce. You may have additionally seen water bead on a vehicle windshield together a result of this phenomenon.



Lipids, i.e., fat molecules, ~ above the other hand, space non-polar, meaning that the charge distribution is same distributed, and the molecules do not have positive and negatively charged ends.. Non-polar molecules do not dissolve well in polar solutions choose water; in fact, polar and also non-polar molecules have tendency to repel each other in the same method that oil and also water don"t mix and also will different from each other even if they are shaken intensely in an attempt to mix them. This distinction between polar and non-polar molecules has important aftermath for life things, which room composed that both polar molecules and also non-polar molecules. The following sections will illustrate the prominence of this.

Fatty Acids

Fatty acids space chain-like molecules that space important contents of several varieties of lipids. The illustrations below show two various fatty mountain molecules. Each has actually a characteristic carboxyl group (the -COOH) attached to a chain of carbons v hydrogen atom attached come the carbon chain. Two things room noteworthy. First, the hydrocarbon chain is really non-polar and also therefore doesn"t dissolve in water an extremely well. However, hydrocarbon chains execute associate through each various other readily. Second, note that the unsaturated fat acid has actually two hydrogens removed, and this permits formation that a twin bond, i.e., a more powerful bond in between two the the carbon atoms. Note additionally that the dual bond has tendency to develop a bending or a kink in the fatty acid. The illustration to the right shows two other common fatty acids: stearic acid, i m sorry is a directly 18 carbon chain through no double bonds, and oleic acid, i beg your pardon is one 18 carbon chain with a single twin bond, which reason a bend in the carbon chain.



A fat molecule is a kind of lipid that consists of three fatty acid molecules associated to a 3 carbon glycerol backbone, as presented on the right. The 3 fatty acids have the right to be various from one another. Due to the fact that the hydrocarbon chains are really non-polar, fats execute no dissolve in water; instead, fat molecules tend to coalesce through one another. Because a fat molecule has 3 fatty acids connected to a glycerol molecule, lock are likewise called trigylcerides.



Phospholipids constitute another important course of lipids. These are comparable to similar to trigylcerides in the they have actually a glycerol backbone, but there are just two fat acids associated to glycerol. The 3rd carbon the the glycerol backbone is attached to a phosphate team (an atom that phosphorus external inspection to four atoms that oxygen), and the phosphate group is attached to a base molecule the choline, serine, or ethanolamine. The component of the phospholipid through phosphate and also the basic is actually an extremely polar, and it tends to turn away indigenous the two fatty acids. This provides phospholipid molecules have a hairpin shape. The head that the hairpin is very polar and therefore likes come associate through water (it is hydrophilic), while the two fatty mountain chains (the "tails") are very non-polar and also tend to prevent water (hydrophobic) and also associate with other hydrocarbon chains.


Phospholipids have the right to be explained as amphipathic ("amphi" means "both"), since they have this twin nature (part polar and component non-polar). This characteristic causes phospholipids to self-associate into big macromolecular complexes in an aqueous (watery) environment.

See more: What Is The Whole Number That Is Not A Natural Number, (V) All Whole Numbers Are Not Natural Numbers


Cholesterol is also vital component of pet membranes (plant membranes have a similar, however distinct "sterol" in their membranes). That is a lipid, because it is composed nearly entirely that carbon and also hydrogen, but it is various from fat acids, fats and also phospholipids in that it is i ordered it in a series of rings. The rings consist that 5 or 6 carbon atoms bonded together. The carbon atoms at the apices the the hexagonal and pentagonal rings have actually hydrogen atom attached to them. The ring-like structures are fairly rigid, however there is additionally a hydrocarbon tail, i beg your pardon is somewhat flexible. The entire structure is rather reminiscent the a an elaborate kite with a tail.


Cholesterol is really non-polar, except for the hydroxyl group attached come the an initial ring. Consequently, in an animal cell membrane the polar hydroxyl group sticks into the aqueous environment (either extracellular water or intracellular water), and also the rest of the cholesterol molecule, which is non-polar, is found amongst the non-polar fatty mountain tails the the phospholipids.The image listed below depicts a ar of a cell membrane v water outside and also inside. The polar head teams of the phospholipids are represented in red, and their non-polar fatty mountain tails are shown as zig-zag lines expanding from the polar head group. As we we watch in greater detail, cell membranes covers a bilayer of phospholipids with various other molecules placed into the bilayer. This illustration shows 5 cholesterol molecules (the black structures with four conjoined rings) inserted into the lipid bilayer. Many of the cholesterol molecule in non-polar and therefore associations v the non-polar fatty mountain tails of the phospholipids. However, the hydroxyl team (-OH) ~ above cholesterol tote a negative charge and therefore associates v the polar setting of water either inside the cell or outside.