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The Secret of Popcorn Popping

Water Power at the Cellular Level


Author(s)

Ling Chen
Science Department
Borough of Manhattan Community College / City University of New York
lchen@bmcc.cuny.edu
Richard Hendrix
Science Department
Borough of Manhattan Community College / City University of New York
rhendrix@bmcc.cuny.edu

Abstract

Focusing on the important role of water in living cellular chemistry, this case emphasizes the general solubility rule, "like dissolves like," which explains how water can serve as a medium for transporting the cell's soluble nutrients and wastes. The case covers how the different interactions between water and glycerophospholipids' polar heads and non-polar tails direct the formation of the cell's membrane bilayer, and teaches students that water is instrumental in positioning amino acids according to their polarities during protein folding. Also reviewed are the chemical reactions of water during photosynthesis, respiration, dehydration, and hydrolysis. The case has been used with nursing students in the second semester of a General, Biological, and Organic Chemistry course. It can also be used as a review of basic biology and chemistry for upper level students in biochemistry.


Objectives

  • To emphasize the polarity of the water molecule.
  • To highlight the general solubility rule: "like dissolves like."
  • To reinforce the lipid bilayer basis of cell membrane structure.
  • To explain how globular proteins fold into their native structures in water.
  • To describe hydrolysis-a mechanism for degrading macromolecules.
  • To describe dehydration-a mechanism for the formation of macromolecules from the building blocks.

Keywords

Water; general solubility rule; hydrolysis; dehydration; hydrophilic; hydrophobic; phospholipid bilayer cell membrane; polar head; non-polar head; macromolecular degradation; synthesis of macromolecules; protein folding

Topical Areas

N/A

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Biochemistry  |   Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |  


Date Posted

4/12/2011

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