Steroids and Waxes

Unlike the phospholipids and fats discussed earlier, steroids have a ring structure. Although they do not resemble other lipids, they are grouped with them because they are also hydrophobic. All steroids have four linked carbon rings and several of them, like cholesterol, have a short tail.

Cholesterol is a steroid. Cholesterol is mainly synthesized in the liver and is the precursor of many steroid hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol. It is also the precursor of vitamins E and

K and the precursor of bile salts, which help in the breakdown of fats and their subsequent absorption by cells. Although cholesterol is often spoken of in negative terms, it is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. It is a key component of the plasma membranes of animal cells.

Waxes are made up of a hydrocarbon chain with an alcohol (−OH) group and a fatty acid. Examples of animal waxes include beeswax and lanolin. Plants also have waxes, such as the coating on their leaves, that helps prevent them from drying out.

For an additional perspective on lipids, explore “Biomolecules: The Lipids” through this interactive animation: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/lipids.

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