Functional Groups

In most organic compounds, clusters of atoms, called functional groups, influence the characteristics of the molecules they compose and the chemical reactions the molecules undergo. For example, one functional group important to living things, the hydroxyl group, —OH, can make the molecule it is attached to polar. Polar molecules are hydrophilic (HiE-droh-FIL-ik), or soluble in water. An alcohol is an organic compound with a hydroxyl group attached to one of its carbon atoms. The hydroxyl group makes an alcohol a polar molecule. The alcohol illustrated in the first row in Table 3-1 is ethanol. Other functional groups important to living things are shown in Table 3-1. These functional groups include a carboxyl group, an amino group, and a phosphate group.

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