Polysaccharide: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is a Polysaccharide?
  • 0:50 Polysaccharide Starch…
  • 1:29 Polysaccharide…
  • 2:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brekke Peterson Munks
Ever wonder what a polysaccharide is and why it's important? This lesson answers those questions, giving you everyday examples and relating their importance to your life.

What Is a Polysaccharide?

A polysaccharide is a long-chain carbohydrate made up of smaller carbohydrates called monosaccharides that's typically used by our bodies for energy or to help with cellular structure. Each monosaccharide is connected together via glycosidic bonds to form the polysaccharide.

The typical polysaccharide is between 200 and 2500 monosaccharides long, and they can be either linear or branched carbon chains. Usually, the structure of polysaccharides is six-carbon repeating monosaccharides linked together by oxygen. The chemical formula is often (C6H10O5)n, where the n is a number larger than 40. The specific formation of the polysaccharide is dependent upon its use.

Typical structure of a polysaccharide

Polysaccharide Starch Molecules

As mentioned, polysaccharides can be used for energy storage. Typically, storage takes the form of starch in both plants and animals. A starch is a chain of glucose molecules that usually takes a linear form. In plants, the common storage starch is amylose; in animals, the common storage starch is glycogen. Both amylose and glycogen are used to fuel plants and animals and are broken down into smaller molecules to be used for energy production. In fact, starches usually take a linear form because that's the easiest to break down into energy. Examples of starches consumed every day are wheat and potatoes. Glycogen is found in animal liver and muscle.

Amylose linear structure

Glycogen branched structure. Note the linkage between the two chains.

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