Key Concepts Of Section

Atomic Bonds and Molecular Interactions

■ Covalent bonds, which bind the atoms composing a molecule in a fixed orientation, consist of pairs of electrons shared by two atoms. Relatively high energies are required to break them (50-200 kcal/mol).

■ In polar bonds, which link atoms that differ in electronegativity, the bonding electrons are distributed unequally. One end of a polar bond has a partial positive charge and the other end has a partial negative charge (see Figure 2-3).

■ Noncovalent interactions between atoms are considerably weaker than covalent bonds, with bond energies ranging from about 1-5 kcal/mol (see Figure 2-4).

■ Four main types of noncovalent interactions occur in biological systems: ionic bonds, hydrogen bonds, van der Waals interactions, and interactions due to the hydropho-bic effect.

■ Ionic bonds result from the electrostatic attraction between the positive and negative charges of ions. In aqueous solutions, all cations and anions are surrounded by a shell of bound water molecules (see Figure 2-5). Increasing the salt (e.g., NaCl) concentration of a solution can weaken the relative strength of and even break the ionic bonds between biomolecules.

■ In a hydrogen bond, a hydrogen atom covalently bonded to an electronegative atom associates with an acceptor atom whose nonbonding electrons attract the hydrogen (see Figure 2-6).

■ Weak and relatively nonspecific van der Waals interactions are created whenever any two atoms approach each other closely. They result from the attraction between transient dipoles associated with all molecules (see Figure 2-8).

■ In an aqueous environment, nonpolar molecules or nonpolar portions of larger molecules are driven together by the hydrophobic effect, thereby reducing the extent of their direct contact with water molecules (see Figure 2-9).

■ Molecular complementarity is the lock-and-key fit between molecules whose shapes, charges, and other physical properties are complementary. Multiple noncovalent interactions can form between complementary molecules, causing them to bind tightly (see Figure 2-10), but not between molecules that are not complementary.

■ The high degree of binding specificity that results from molecular complementarity is one of the features that distinguish biochemistry from typical solution chemistry.

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