3D structure of cellulose, a beta-glucan polysaccharide.
Amylose is a linear polymer of glucose mainly linked with α(1→4) bonds. It can be made of several thousands of glucose units. It is one of the two components of starch, the other being amylopectin.

Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages and on hydrolysis give the constituent monosaccharides or oligosaccharides. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen, and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.

Polysaccharides are often quite heterogeneous, containing slight modifications of the repeating unit. Depending on the structure, these macromolecules can have distinct properties from their monosaccharide building blocks. They may be amorphous or even insoluble in water.[1][2] When all the monosaccharides in a polysaccharide are the same type, the polysaccharide is called a homopolysaccharide or homoglycan, but when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are called heteropolysaccharides or heteroglycans.[3][4]

Natural saccharides are generally of simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides with general formula (CH2O)n where n is three or more. Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and glyceraldehyde[5] Polysaccharides, meanwhile, have a general formula of Cx(H2O)y where x is usually a large number between 200 and 2500. Considering that the repeating units in the polymer backbone are often six-carbon monosaccharides, the general formula can also be represented as (C6H10O5)n where 40≤n≤3000.

Polysaccharides contain more than ten monosaccharide units. Definitions of how large a carbohydrate must be to fall into the categories polysaccharides or Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called 'animal starch'. Glycogen's properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.

  • Polysaccharide Structure
  • Applications and commercial sources of polysaccharides
  • European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence

External links

  1. ^ Varki A, Cummings R, Esko J, Freeze H, Stanley P, Bertozzi C, Hart G, Etzler M (2008). Essentials of glycobiology. Essentials of Glycobiology (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2nd edition).  
  2. ^ Varki A, Cummings R, Esko J, Jessica Freeze, Hart G, Marth J (1999). Essentials of glycobiology. Essentials of glycobiology (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press).  
  3. ^ IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book") (1997). Online corrected version:  (2006–) "homopolysaccharide (homoglycan)".
  4. ^ IUPAC, Compendium of Chemical Terminology, 2nd ed. (the "Gold Book") (1997). Online corrected version:  (2006–) "heteropolysaccharide (heteroglycan)".
  5. ^ Matthews, C. E.; K. E. Van Holde; K. G. Ahern (1999) Biochemistry. 3rd edition. Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-8053-3066-6
  6. ^ N.A.Campbell (1996) Biology (4th edition). Benjamin Cummings NY. p.23 ISBN 0-8053-1957-3
  7. ^ a b "Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2005), Chapter 7: Dietary, Functional and Total fiber.". US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library and National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. 
  8. ^ a b Eastwood M, Kritchevsky D (2005). "Dietary fiber: how did we get where we are?". Annu Rev Nutr 25: 1–8.  
  9. ^ Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH et al. (2009). "Health benefits of dietary fiber". Nutr Rev 67 (4): 188–205.  
  10. ^ Weickert MO, Pfeiffer AF (2008). "Metabolic effects of dietary fiberand any other substance that consume and prevention of diabetes". J Nutr 138 (3): 439–42.  
  11. ^ "Dietary reference values for carbohydrates and dietary fiber". European Food Safety Authority. 
  12. ^ Jones PJ, Varady KA (2008). "Are functional foods redefining nutritional requirements?" (PDF). Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 33 (1): 118–23.  
  13. ^ Anatomy and Physiology. Saladin, Kenneth S. McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  14. ^ "Animal starch". Merriam Webster. Retrieved May 11, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Campbell, Neil A.; Brad Williamson; Robin J. Heyden (2006). Biology: Exploring Life. Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson Prentice Hall.  
  16. ^ Moses SW, Bashan N, Gutman A (December 1972). "Glycogen metabolism in the normal red blood cell". Blood 40 (6): 836–43.  
  17. ^ http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/129/1/141.pdf
  18. ^ Miwa I, Suzuki S (November 2002). "An improved quantitative assay of glycogen in erythrocytes". Annals of Clinical Biochemistry 39 (Pt 6): 612–3.  
  19. ^ Page 12 in: Exercise physiology: energy, nutrition, and human performance, By William D. McArdle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch, Edition: 6, illustrated, Published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006, ISBN 0-7817-4990-5, ISBN 978-0-7817-4990-9, 1068 pages
  20. ^ Viscosity of Welan Gum vs. Concentration in Water. http://www.xydatasource.com/xy-showdatasetpage.php?datasetcode=345115&dsid=80
  21. ^ Guo H, Yi W, Song JK, Wang PG (2008). "Current understanding on biosynthesis of microbial polysaccharides". Curr Top Med Chem 8 (2): 141–51.  
  22. ^ Cornelis P (editor). (2008). Pseudomonas: Genomics and Molecular Biology (1st ed.). Caister Academic Press.  


See also

Polysaccharides with unprotected vicinal diols or amino sugars (i.e. some OH groups replaced with amine) give a positive Periodic acid-Schiff stain (PAS). The list of polysaccharides that stain with PAS is long. Although mucins of epithelial origins stain with PAS, mucins of connective tissue origin have so many acidic substitutions that they do not have enough glycol or amino-alcohol groups left to react with PAS.

Periodic acid-Schiff stain (PAS)

Chemical identification tests for polysaccharides

The enzymes that make the A-band (homopolymeric) and B-band (heteropolymeric) O-antigens have been identified and the metabolic pathways defined.[21] The exopolysaccharide alginate is a linear copolymer of β-1,4-linked D-mannuronic acid and L-guluronic acid residues, and is responsible for the mucoid phenotype of late-stage cystic fibrosis disease. The pel and psl loci are two recently discovered gene clusters that also encode exopolysaccharides found to be important for biofilm formation. Rhamnolipid is a biosurfactant whose production is tightly regulated at the transcriptional level, but the precise role that it plays in disease is not well understood at present. Protein glycosylation, particularly of pilin and flagellin, became a focus of research by several groups from about 2007, and has been shown to be important for adhesion and invasion during bacterial infection.[22]

Cell-surface polysaccharides play diverse roles in bacterial Lipopolysaccharide is one of the most important cell-surface polysaccharides, as it plays a key structural role in outer membrane integrity, as well as being an important mediator of host-pathogen interactions.

Aqueous solutions of the polysaccharide alone have a curious behavior when stirred: after stirring ceases, the solution initially continues to swirl due to momentum, then slows to a standstill due to viscosity and reverses direction briefly before stopping. This recoil is due to the elastic effect of the polysaccharide chains, previously stretched in solution, returning to their relaxed state.

Viscosity of Welan gum
Shear Rate (rpm) Viscosity (cP)
0.3 23330
0.5 16000
1 11000
2 5500
4 3250
5 2900
10 1700
20 900
50 520
100 310

Most of these polysaccharides exhibit useful visco-elastic properties when dissolved in water at very low levels.[20] This makes various liquids used in everyday life, such as some foods, lotions, cleaners, and paints, viscous when stationary, but much more free-flowing when even slight shear is applied by stirring or shaking, pouring, wiping, or brushing. This property is named pseudoplasticity or shear thinning; the study of such matters is called rheology.

Bacteria and many other microbes, including fungi and algae, often secrete polysaccharides to help them adhere to surfaces and to prevent them from drying out. Humans have developed some of these polysaccharides into useful products, including xanthan gum, dextran, welan gum, gellan gum, diutan gum and pullulan.

Pathogenic bacteria commonly produce a thick, mucous-like, layer of polysaccharide. This "capsule" cloaks antigenic proteins on the bacterial surface that would otherwise provoke an immune response and thereby lead to the destruction of the bacteria. Capsular polysaccharides are water soluble, commonly acidic, and have molecular weights on the order of 100-2000 kDa. They are linear and consist of regularly repeating subunits of one to six monosaccharides. There is enormous structural diversity; nearly two hundred different polysaccharides are produced by E. coli alone. Mixtures of capsular polysaccharides, either conjugated or native are used as vaccines.

Bacterial capsular polysaccharides

Acidic polysaccharides are polysaccharides that contain carboxyl groups, phosphate groups and/or sulfuric ester groups.

Acidic polysaccharides

Pectins are a family of complex polysaccharides that contain 1,4-linked α-D-galactosyluronic acid residues. They are present in most primary cell walls and in the non-woody parts of terrestrial plants.


Chemically, chitin is closely related to chitosan (a more water-soluble derivative of chitin). It is also closely related to cellulose in that it is a long unbranched chain of glucose derivatives. Both materials contribute structure and strength, protecting the organism.

receptors to simple sugars from the decomposition of chitin. If chitin is detected, they then produce enzymes to digest it by cleaving the glycosidic bonds in order to convert it to simple sugars and ammonia.


The structural component of plants are formed primarily from cellulose. Wood is largely cellulose and lignin, while paper and cotton are nearly pure cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer made with repeated glucose units bonded together by beta-linkages. Humans and many animals lack an enzyme to break the beta-linkages, so they do not digest cellulose. Certain animals such as termites can digest cellulose, because bacteria possessing the enzyme are present in their gut. Cellulose is insoluble in water. It does not change color when mixed with iodine. On hydrolysis, it yields glucose. It is the most abundant carbohydrate in nature.


Arabinoxylans are found in both the primary and secondary cell walls of plants and are the copolymers of two pentose sugars: arabinose and xylose.


Structural polysaccharides

  • It is an energy reserve for animals.
  • It is the chief form of carbohydrate stored in animal body.
  • It is insoluble in water. It turns red when mixed with iodine.
  • It also yields glucose on hydrolysis.

Glycogen is composed of a branched chain of glucose residues. It is stored in liver and muscles.

In the liver muscles, glycogen is found in a low concentration of one to two percent of the muscle mass. The amount of glycogen stored in the body—especially within the muscles, liver, and red blood cells[16][17][18]—varies with physical activity, basal metabolic rate, and eating habits such as intermittent fasting. Small amounts of glycogen are found in the kidneys, and even smaller amounts in certain glial cells in the brain and white blood cells. The uterus also stores glycogen during pregnancy, to nourish the embryo.[15]

Glycogen is the analogue of starch, a glucose polymer in plants, and is sometimes referred to as animal starch,[14] having a similar structure to amylopectin but more extensively branched and compact than starch. Glycogen is a polymer of α(1→4) glycosidic bonds linked, with α(1→6)-linked branches. Glycogen is found in the form of granules in the cytosol/cytoplasm in many cell types, and plays an important role in the glucose cycle. Glycogen forms an energy reserve that can be quickly mobilized to meet a sudden need for glucose, but one that is less compact and more immediately available as an energy reserve than triglycerides (lipids).

Glycogen serves as the secondary long-term energy storage in animal and fungal cells, with the primary energy stores being held in adipose tissue. Glycogen is made primarily by the liver and the muscles, but can also be made by glycogenesis within the brain and stomach.[13]


Starches are glucose polymers in which glucopyranose units are bonded by alpha-linkages. It is made up of a mixture of amylose (15–20%) and amylopectin (80–85%). Amylose consists of a linear chain of several hundred glucose molecules and Amylopectin is a branched molecule made of several thousand glucose units (every chain of 24–30 glucose units is one unit of Amylopectin). Starches are insoluble in water. They can be digested which can break the alpha-linkages (glycosidic bonds). Both humans and animals have amylases, so they can digest starches. Potato, rice, wheat, and maize are major sources of starch in the human diet. The formations of starches are the ways that plants store glucose


Storage polysaccharides

Not yet formally proposed as an essential macronutrient (as of 2005), dietary fiber is nevertheless regarded as important for the diet, with regulatory authorities in many developed countries recommending increases in fiber intake.[7][8][11][12]

Even though these complex to carbohydrates are not very digestible, they provide important dietary elements for humans. Called dietary fiber, these carbohydrates enhance digestion among other benefits. The main action of dietary fiber is to change the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, and to change how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed.[7][8] Soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the small intestine, making them less likely to enter the body; this in turn lowers cholesterol levels in the blood.[9] Soluble fiber also attenuates the absorption of sugar, reduces sugar response after eating, normalizes blood lipid levels and, once fermented in the colon, produces short-chain fatty acids as byproducts with wide-ranging physiological activities (discussion below). Although insoluble fiber is associated with reduced diabetes risk, the mechanism by which this occurs is unknown.[10]

Nutrition polysaccharides are common sources of energy. Many organisms can easily break down starches into glucose; however, most organisms cannot metabolize cellulose or other polysaccharides like cellulose.




  • Function 1
    • Structure 1.1
  • Storage polysaccharides 2
    • Starches 2.1
    • Glycogen 2.2
  • Structural polysaccharides 3
    • Arabinoxylans 3.1
    • Cellulose 3.2
    • Chitin 3.3
    • Pectins 3.4
  • Acidic polysaccharides 4
  • Bacterial capsular polysaccharides 5
  • Chemical identification tests for polysaccharides 6
    • Periodic acid-Schiff stain (PAS) 6.1
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

. galactomannan and fucoidan, mannan, arabinoxylan, xylan, chrysolaminarin, laminarin or callose. Polysaccharides also include surgical threads. It also has multiple uses, including fungi and in the cell walls of some exoskeletons arthropod-containing side branches, increasing its strength. It is found in nitrogen process), cellulose acetate, celluloid, and nitrocellulose. Chitin has a similar structure, but has viscose It has many uses such as a significant role in the paper and textile industries, and is used as a feedstock for the production of rayon (via the [6]