Is lipid hydrophilic or hydrophobic?
Lipids are fats, like oil, that are insoluble in water. There are two important regions of a lipid that provide the structure of the lipid bilayer. Each lipid molecule contains a hydrophilic region, also called a polar head region, and a hydrophobic, or nonpolar tail region.
Phospholipids are amphipathic molecules. This means that they have a hydrophilic, polar phosphate head and two hydrophobic fatty acid tails. These components of the phospholipids cause them to orientate themselves, so the phosphate head can interact with water and the fatty acid tails can't, hence forming a bilayer.
- Nonpolar and small polar molecules can pass through the cell membrane, so they diffuse across it in response to concentration gradients. Carbon dioxide and oxygen are two molecules that undergo this simple diffusion through the membrane. The simple diffusion of water is known as osmosis.
- Cell membranes are selectively permeable. A few lipophilic substances move freely across the cell membrane by passive diffusion. Most small molecules or ions require the assistance of specific protein carriers to transport them across the membrane.
- If this is for school, you should write that glycerol is a lipid. The building blocks of lipids are glycerol and fatty acids. You have to prove that you know that. In real life, glycerol is a sugar alcohol which makes it more like a carbohydrate than anything else.
In biological systems, the phospholipids often occur with other molecules (e.g., proteins, glycolipids, sterols) in a bilayer such as a cell membrane. Lipid bilayers occur when hydrophobic tails line up against one another, forming a membrane of hydrophilic heads on both sides facing the water.
- Phospholipids are amphipathic molecules. This means that they have a hydrophilic, polar phosphate head and two hydrophobic fatty acid tails. These components of the phospholipids cause them to orientate themselves, so the phosphate head can interact with water and the fatty acid tails can't, hence forming a bilayer.
- Cell membranes serve as barriers and gatekeepers. They are semi-permeable, which means that some molecules can diffuse across the lipid bilayer but others cannot. Small hydrophobic molecules and gases like oxygen and carbon dioxide cross membranes rapidly.
- The Fluid Mosaic Model states that membranes are composed of a Phospholipid Bilayer with various protein molecules floating around within it. The 'Fluid' part represents how some parts of the membrane can move around freely, if they are not attached to other parts of the cell.
Updated: 2nd October 2019