Site author Richard Steane
The BioTopics website gives access to interactive resource material, developed to support the
learning and teaching of Biology at a variety of levels.
Monomers and polymers
poly- means many
mono- means one or single
are substances made up from many smaller sub-units, chemically joined together.
These smaller sub-units are molecules called monomers
This diagram represents a number of monomers.
Biological molecules are joined together using
a chemical reaction called condensation.
This forms a chemical bond between the 2 molecules with the elimination of water,
so a molecule of water is produced for each bond. Actually, -H is taken from one side and -OH from the other.
This animation shows a small polymer being built up from six monomers. Tip: keep the mouse pointer off the space above - it resets the display until it is clicked on.
hydro- means water
-lysis means splitting
The opposite process to condensation is hydrolysis
, which breaks the bond(s) in the polymer to release smaller molecules (often individual monomers).
This requires a water molecule to split the bond. This adds -H to one side and -OH to the other. This is what happens in digestion.
This animation shows a polymer being broken down into dimers.
Examples of biological monomers and polymers:
Click here to see things differently
||are broken down
by hydrolysis into:
|Polysaccharides || Monosaccharides |
|Nucleic acids ||Nucleotides|
The processes of condensation and hydrolysis, and biological molecules are dealt with in different ways on this site:
Condensation and hydrolysis - leading to other webpages with several animations of the processes
Molecular structure of glucose and other carbohydrates - leading to other webpages with 3-D interactive molecules
Amino acid structure - a simple webpage with more mouseover interaction
Others in this series (Biological Chemicals)
Carbohydrates - monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides
Proteins - amino acids, polypeptides
Enzymes - hydrolysis and synthesis of biologiacl chemicals all take place under enzyme control