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October, 2006
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Cholesterol: The principal sterol of all higher animals, distributed in body tissues, especially the brain and spinal cord, and in animal fats and oils.

Membrane Fluidity

JoVE 10972

Cell membranes are composed of phospholipids, proteins, and carbohydrates loosely attached to one another through chemical interactions. Molecules are generally able to move about in the plane of the membrane, giving the membrane its flexible nature called fluidity. Two other features of the membrane contribute to membrane fluidity: the chemical structure of the phospholipids and the presence of cholesterol in the membrane. Fatty acids tails of phospholipids can be either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fatty acids have single bonds between the hydrocarbon backbone and are saturated with the maximum number of hydrogens. These saturated tails are straight and can, therefore, pack together tightly. In contrast, unsaturated fatty acid tails contain double bonds between carbon atoms, giving them a kinked shape and preventing tight packing. Increasing the relative proportion of phospholipids with unsaturated tails results in a more fluid membrane. Organisms like bacteria and yeasts that experience environmental temperature fluctuations are able to adjust the fatty acid content of their membranes to maintain a relatively constant fluidity. In cell membranes, cholesterol is able to interact with heads of phospholipids, partly immobilizing the proximal part of the hydrocarbon chain. This interaction decreases the ability of polar molecules to cross the membrane

 Core: Biology

Macromolecules- Concept

JoVE 10590


Organisms contain a wide variety of organic molecules with numerous functions which depend on the chemical structures and properties of these molecules. All organic molecules contain a carbon backbone and hydrogen atoms. The carbon atom is central in the formation of a vast variety of organic molecules ranging in size, shape and complexity; inorganic molecules on the other…

 Lab Bio

Accessory Organs

JoVE 10831

Accessory organs are those that participate in the digestion of food but do not come into direct contact with it like the mouth, stomach, or intestine do. Accessory organs secrete enzymes into the digestive tract to facilitate the breakdown of food.

Salivary glands secrete saliva—a complex liquid containing in part water, mucus, and amylase. Amylase is a digestive enzyme that begins breaking down starches and other carbohydrates even before they reach the stomach. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas are the other accessory organs involved in digestion. All three secrete enzymes into the duodenum of the small intestine via a series of channels called the biliary tree. The liver and gallbladder work together to release bile into the duodenum. The liver produces bile, but it is stored in the gallbladder for secretion when needed. Bile is a mixture of water, bile salts, cholesterol, and bilirubin. Bile salts contain hydrophobic areas and hydrophilic areas which allows it to engage with both fats and water. Thus it breaks down large fat globules into smaller ones—a process called emulsification. Bilirubin is a waste product that accumulates when the liver breaks hemoglobin from red blood cells. The globin is recycled and the heme, which contains iron, is excreted in the bile. The presence of bilirubin is what gives feces its brown color

 Core: Biology

Receptor-mediated Endocytosis

JoVE 10708

Receptor-mediated endocytosis is a process through which bulk amounts of specific molecules can be imported into a cell after binding to cell surface receptors. The molecules bound to these receptors are taken into the cell through inward folding of the cell surface membrane, which is eventually pinched off into a vesicle within the cell. Structural proteins, such as clathrin, coat the budding vesicle and give it its round form. One well-characterized example of receptor-mediated endocytosis is the transport of low-density lipoproteins (LDL cholesterol) into the cell. LDL binds to transmembrane receptors on the cell membrane. Adapter proteins allow clathrin to attach to the inner surface of the membrane. These protein complexes bend the membrane inward, creating a clathrin-coated vesicle inside the cell. The neck of the endocytic vesicle is pinched off from the membrane by a complex of the protein dynamin and other accessory proteins. The endocytic vesicle fuses with an early endosome, and the LDL dissociates from the receptor proteins due to a lower pH environment. Empty receptor proteins are separated into transport vesicles to be re-inserted into the outer cell membrane. LDL remains in the endosome, which binds with a lysosome. The lysosome provides digestive enzymes that break up LDL into free cholesterol that can be used by the cell. There ar

 Core: Biology

Dietary Connections

JoVE 10746

Metabolic pathways are interconnected. The cellular respiration processes that convert glucose to ATP—such as glycolysis, pyruvate oxidation, and the citric acid cycle—tie into those that break down other organic compounds. As a result, various foods—from apples to cheese to guacamole—end up as ATP. In addition to carbohydrates, food also contains proteins and lipids—such as cholesterol and of these organic compounds are used as energy sources (i.e., to produce ATP). The human body possesses several enzymes that break down carbohydrates into simple sugars. While glucose can enter glycolysis directly, some simple sugars, such as fructose and galactose, are first converted into sugars that are intermediates of the glycolytic pathway. Proteins are broken down by enzymes into their constituent amino acids, which are usually recycled to create new proteins. However, if the body is starving or there is a surplus of amino acids, some amino acids can lose their amino groups and subsequently enter cellular respiration. The lost amino groups are converted into ammonia and incorporated into waste products. Different amino acids enter cellular respiration at different stages, including glycolysis, pyruvate oxidation, and the citric acid cycle. Amino acids can also be produced from intermediates in cellular respiration processes. Lipids, such as choleste

 Core: Biology

Types of Hormones

JoVE 10988

Hormones can be classified into three main types based on their chemical structures: steroids, peptides, and amines. Their actions are mediated by the specific receptors they bind to on target cells.

Steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and are lipophilic in nature. This allows them to readily traverse the lipid-rich cell membrane to bind to their intracellular receptors in the cytoplasm or nucleus. Once bound, the cytoplasmic hormone-receptor complex translocates to the nucleus. Here, it binds to regulatory sequences on the DNA to alter gene expression. Peptide hormones are made up of chains of amino acids and are hydrophilic. Hence, they are unable to diffuse across the cell membrane. Instead, they bind to extracellular receptors present on the surface of target cells. Such binding triggers a series of signaling reactions within the cell to ultimately carry out the specific functions of the hormone. Amine hormones are derived from a single amino acid, either tyrosine or tryptophan. This class of hormones is unique because they share their mechanism of action with both steroid as well as peptide hormones. For example, although epinephrine and thyroxine are both derived from the amino acid tyrosine, they mediate their effects through diverse mechanisms. Epinephrine binds to G-protein coupled receptors present on the surface of the plasma

 Core: Biology

What are Lipids?

JoVE 10683

Lipids are a group of structurally and functionally diverse organic compounds that are insoluble in water. Certain classes of lipids, such as fats, phospholipids, and steroids are crucial to all living organisms. They function as structural components of cellular membranes, energy reservoirs, and signaling molecules.

Lipids are structurally and functionally diverse group of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are chemical compounds that consist of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The carbon-carbon and carbon-hydrogen bonds are nonpolar, which means that the electrons between the atoms are shared equally. The individual nonpolar bonds impart an overall nonpolar characteristic to the hydrocarbon compound. Additionally, nonpolar compounds are hydrophobic, or “water-hating.” This means they do not form hydrogen bonds with water molecules, rendering them nearly insoluble in water. Depending on the chemical composition, lipids can be divided into different classes. The biologically important classes of lipids are fats, phospholipids, and steroids. The hydrocarbon backbone of fat has three carbon atoms. Each carbon carries a hydroxyl (–OH) group, making it glycerol. To form a fat, each of the hydroxyl groups of glycerol is linked to a fatty acid. A fatty acid is a long hydrocarbon chain with a carboxyl grou

 Core: Biology

Responses to Heat and Cold Stress

JoVE 11119

Every organism has an optimum temperature range within which healthy growth and physiological functioning can occur. At the ends of this range, there will be a minimum and maximum temperature that interrupt biological processes.

When the environmental dynamics fall out of the optimal limit for a given species, changes in metabolism and functioning occur – and this is defined as stress. Plants respond to stress by initiating changes in gene expression - leading to adjustments in plant metabolism and development aimed at attaining a state of homeostasis. Plants maintain membrane fluidity during temperature fluctuations Cell membranes in plants are generally one of the first structures that are affected by a change in ambient temperature. These membranes primarily constitute phospholipids, cholesterol, and proteins, with the lipid portion comprising long chains of unsaturated or saturated fatty acids. One of the primary strategies plants can adopt under temperature change is to alter the lipid component of their membranes. Typically, plants will decrease the degree of unsaturation of membrane lipids under high temperature, and increase it under low temperature, maintaining the fluidity of the membrane. Heat Shock Proteins The exposure of plant tissue or cells to sudden high-temperature stress res

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10905

Spermatogenesis is the process by which haploid sperm cells are produced in the male testes. It starts with stem cells located close to the outer rim of seminiferous tubules. These spermatogonial stem cells divide asymmetrically to give rise to additional stem cells (meaning that these structures “self-renew”), as well as sperm progenitors, called spermatocytes. Importantly, this method of asymmetric mitotic division maintains a population of spermatogonial stem cells in the male reproductive tract, ensuring that sperm will continue to be produced throughout a man’s lifespan. As spermatogenesis proceeds, spermatocytes embark on meiosis, and each ultimately divides to form four sperm—each with only 23 chromosomes— that are expelled into the male reproductive tract. Interestingly, this is in contrast to oogenesis in women, during which only a single egg is generated for every progenitor cell. At the end of spermatogenesis, sperm demonstrate their characteristic shape: a “head” harboring minimal cytoplasm and a highly condensed nucleus, as well as a motile tail (flagellum). They are small cells, with no organelles such as ribosomes, ER or Golgi, but do have many mitochondria around the flagellum for power. Just below the head is the acrosomal vesicle which contains hydrolytic enzymes to penetrate the egg outer coat—th

 Core: Biology


JoVE 10902

In response to tissue injury and infection, mast cells initiate inflammation. Mast cells release chemicals that increase the permeability of adjacent blood capillaries and attract additional immune cells to the wound or site of infection. Neutrophils are phagocytic leukocytes that exit the bloodstream and engulf invading microbes. Blood clotting platelets seal the wound and fibers create a scaffold for wound healing. Macrophages engulf aging neutrophils to end the acute inflammatory response. Tissue injury and infection are the primary causes of acute inflammation. Inflammation protects the body by eliminating the cause of tissue injury and initiating the removal of cell debris resulting from the initial damage and related immune cell activity. Inflammation involves mediators of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Proper regulation of inflammation is crucial to clear the pathogen and remove cell debris without overly damaging healthy tissue in the process. If inflammatory processes are not properly regulated, chronic inflammation can arise that is often fatal. Mast cells are the first to respond to tissue injury, as they are primarily located in areas that have contact with the exterior: the skin, gut, and airways. Mast cells have an arsenal of receptors on their cell surface and can hence be activated by a wide variety of stimuli, such as mi

 Core: Biology
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