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A wax is a type of structural lipid consisting of a long fatty-acid chain joined to a long alcohol chain. Waxes are waterproof, and in plants, form a protective coating on the outer surfaces. Waxes also form protective layers in animals. For example, earwax helps prevent microorganisms from entering the ear canal.


Unlike most other lipids, which are composed of fatty acids, steroid molecules are composed of four fused carbon rings with various functional groups attached to them. Many animal hormones, such as the male hormone testosterone, are steroid compounds. One of the most familiar steroids in humans is cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed by the body for nerve and other cells to function normally. It is also a component of the cell membrane.

figure 3-12

DNA as shown below, and RNA, are very large molecules formed from nucleotides linked together in a chain. A nucleotide consists of a phosphate group, a five-carbon sugar, and a ring-shaped nitrogenous base.

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