Many important chemical events in cells do not involve the making or breaking of covalent bonds. The cellular location of most molecules depends on weak, or secondary, attractive or repulsive forces, tn addition, weak bonds are important in determining the shape of many molecules, especially very large ones. The most important of these weak forces are hydrogen bonds, van der Waals interactions, hydrophobic bonds, and ionic bonds. Even though these threes are relatively weak, they are still large enough to ensure that the right molecules (or atomic groups) interact with each other. For example, the surface of an enzyme is uniquely shaped to allow specific attraction nf its substrates.
The formation of all chemical bonds, wriak interactions as well as strong rovalent bonds, proceeds according to the laws of thermodynamics. A bond tends to form when the result would be a release of free energy (negative AG). For the bond to be broken, this same amount of free energy must be supplied. Because the formation ot covalent bond« between atoms usually involves a very large negative AG, covalently bound atoms almost never separate spontaneously, In contrast, the AC values accompanying the formation of weak bonds are only several times larger than the average thermal energy of molecules at physiological temperatures. Single weak bonds are thus frequently being made and broken in living cells.
Molecules having polar [charged) groups interact quite differently from nonpolar molecules (in which the charge is symmetrically distributed). Polar molecules can form good hydrogen bonds, whereas nonpolar molecules can form only van der VVaals bonds. The most important polar molecule is water. Each water molecule can form four hydrogen bonds to other water molecules. Although polar molecules tend to be soluble in water (to various degree."?), nonpolar molecules are insoluble because they cannot form hydrogen bonds with water molecules.
Every distinct molecule has a unique molecular shape that restricts the number of molecules with which it can form strong secondary bonds. Strong secondary interac tions demand both a complementary (Loek-and-key) relationship between the two bonding surfaces and the involvement of many atoms. Although molecules bound together by only one or two secondary bonds frequently fall apart, a collection of these weak bonds can result in a stable aggregate. The fact that double-helical DNA never falls apart spontaneously demonstrates the extreme stability possible in such an aggregate.
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