UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
What are phospholipids?
Question Date: 2013-04-15
Answer 1:

Phospholipids are lipids with a phosphate functional group (PO4-3) attached at the end. Lipids are a group of molecules that include fats, fatty acids, and waxes that occur naturally in biological systems.

Phospholipids are important because they form cell membranes. When dissolved in water, phospholipids will form a bilayer structure because the hydrophobic tails will face each other to avoid the water, and the hydrophilic phosphate groups will face the water.

Hydrophobic – repelled by water
Hydrophilic – attracted to water

The figure shows how phospholipids form membrane structures.

Phospholipid bilayer membranes form the boundaries of our cells. Without them, our bodies would have no way to keep all of our cell contents separate and could not function.

*The figure is from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phospholipid

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use