In terms of structure, steroids differ considerably from triglycerides or phospholipids, yet steroids are still included in the lipid category of molecules because they are nonpolar and insoluble in water. All steroid molecules have the same basic structure: three six-carbon rings joined to one five-carbon ring (fig. 2.22). However, different kinds of steroids have different functional groups attached to this basic structure, and they vary in the number and position of the double covalent bonds between the carbon atoms in the rings.
Cholesterol is an important molecule in the body because it serves as the precursor (parent molecule) for the steroid hormones produced by the gonads and adrenal cortex. The testes and ovaries (collectively called the gonads) secrete sex steroids, which include estradiol and progesterone from the ovaries and testosterone from the testes. The adrenal cortex secretes the corticosteroids,
■ Figure 2.21 The formation of a micelle structure by phospholipids such as lecithin. The hydrophilic outer layer of the micelle faces the aqueous environment.
including hydrocortisone and aldosterone, as well as weak andro-gens (including dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA). Cholesterol is also an important component of cell membranes, and serves as the precursor molecule for bile salts and vitamin D3.
Was this article helpful?
This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.