Anomeric Carbon: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:05 The Maillard Reaction
  • 0:31 Stereocenters & Sugars
  • 1:50 Anomeric Carbon Defined
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we'll learn about anomeric carbons. We'll define the term and learn how anomeric carbons are formed, as well as exploring their importance to sugars and the Maillard reaction.

The Maillard Reaction

Do you like toast, caramel, and roast beef? The flavor and brown color of all of these products is a result of the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction occurs between a protein and a reducing sugar, which is a sugar with a free anomeric carbon. If there aren't any reducing sugars available, then these products wouldn't be possible. In this lesson, we will learn about anomeric carbons, particularly their role in sugars.

Stereocenters and Sugars

In order to understand an anomeric carbon, we first need to understand a few other terms. First, a stereocenter is a molecule (such as carbon) that is attached to four different units. So if a carbon is attached to two hydrogens, an alcohol (OH), and a methyl group (CH3), then it's not a stereocenter because there are two hydrogens (which are the same unit). But if one of those hydrogens were changed into a carboxyl group (COOH), then it would be a stereocenter because all substituents are different.

We also need to understand the definition of a sugar. Typically we use the term sugar to refer to table sugar, the sweetener that we put into cookies or on oatmeal. But scientifically, sugar refers to any simple carbohydrate and table sugar is actually sucrose. Other common sugars include glucose, fructose, lactose, and galactose. This is why toast can still undergo the Maillard reaction without you having to sprinkling sucrose on the bread; there are other sugars in the bread, such as glucose, that react. It's also important to note that sugars are often in a cyclic form on a molecular scale. However, they can also take on an acyclic (or straight-line) form.

Acyclic form of the sugar glucose
Fisher projection of glucose

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