What is the monomer of carbohydrates?

What is the monomer of carbohydrates?


Carbohydrates are one of the essential macronutrients that provide energy to the body. They are composed of smaller units called monomers, which are linked together to form larger carbohydrate molecules. In this article, we will explore in detail the monomer of carbohydrates and its significance in the structure and function of these important biomolecules.

Monomer of Carbohydrates: Monosaccharides

The monomer of carbohydrates is known as a monosaccharide. Monosaccharides are simple sugars that cannot be further hydrolyzed into smaller carbohydrate units. These molecules are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, with the general chemical formula (CH2O)n, where “n” represents the number of carbon atoms in the molecule.

Monosaccharides come in various forms, but the most common ones include glucose, fructose, and galactose. Glucose is the primary source of energy for many organisms, including humans, and is often referred to as blood sugar. Fructose is commonly found in fruits and is one of the sweetest naturally occurring sugars. Galactose is less common but is found in dairy products and is an essential component of lactose, the sugar present in milk.

Structure of Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides have a basic structure consisting of a chain of carbon atoms, with each carbon atom bonded to a hydrogen atom and a hydroxyl group (-OH). The exception is the carbonyl group, which can be either an aldehyde (-CHO) or a ketone (-C=O).

Based on the number of carbon atoms in the monosaccharide, they can be classified as trioses (3 carbons), tetroses (4 carbons), pentoses (5 carbons), hexoses (6 carbons), and so on. The most common monosaccharides in nature are pentoses and hexoses.

The arrangement of hydroxyl groups around the carbon atoms gives rise to different isomers of monosaccharides. For example, glucose and fructose have the same chemical formula (C6H12O6), but their arrangement of atoms differs, resulting in distinct chemical and physical properties.

Function of Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides serve various functions in living organisms. The primary role of monosaccharides, such as glucose, is to provide energy for cellular processes through cellular respiration. Glucose is broken down in cells to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of the cell.

In addition to their energy-providing function, monosaccharides also play a crucial role in the structure of larger carbohydrates. When two monosaccharides join together through a dehydration synthesis reaction, a disaccharide is formed. Disaccharides, such as sucrose and lactose, are composed of two monosaccharide units joined by a glycosidic bond. These disaccharides can be further hydrolyzed back into monosaccharides.

Furthermore, monosaccharides are important components of more complex carbohydrates, such as polysaccharides. Polysaccharides, such as starch and cellulose, are composed of long chains of monosaccharide units. These polysaccharides serve as energy storage molecules (starch in plants) or structural components (cellulose in plant cell walls).


In summary, the monomer of carbohydrates is the monosaccharide. Monosaccharides are simple sugars that cannot be further broken down into smaller carbohydrate units. They play a vital role in providing energy to cells and are the building blocks of larger carbohydrates, such as disaccharides and polysaccharides. Understanding the structure and function of monosaccharides is crucial for comprehending the importance of carbohydrates in biological systems.


– Nelson, D. L., Cox, M. M. (2008). Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. W.H. Freeman and Company.
– Berg, J. M., Tymoczko, J. L., Gatto, G. J. (2015). Stryer’s Biochemistry. W.H. Freeman and Company.