Phospholipids are a class of lipids that are a major component of all cell membranes. They can form lipid bilayers because of their amphiphilic characteristic. The structure of the phospholipid molecule generally consists of two hydrophobic fatty acid “tails” and a hydrophilic “head” consisting of a phosphate group. The two components are joined together by a glycerol molecule. The phosphate groups can be modified with simple organic molecules such as choline, ethanolamine or serine.
The first phospholipid identified in 1847 as such in biological tissues was lecithin, or phosphatidylcholine, in the egg yolk of chickens by the French chemist and pharmacist, Theodore Nicolas Gobley. Biological membranes in eukaryotes also contain another class of lipid, sterol, interspersed among the phospholipids and together they provide membrane fluidity and mechanical strength. Purified phospholipids are produced commercially and have found applications in nanotechnology and materials science.
Glycolipids are lipids with a carbohydrate attached by a glycosidic (covalent) bond. Their role is to maintain the stability of the cell membrane and to facilitate cellular recognition, which is crucial to the immune response and in the connections that allow cells to connect to one another to form tissues. Glycolipids are found on the surface of all eukaryotic cell membranes, where they extend from the phospholipid bilayer into the extracellular environment.
Any lipid, such as lecithin or cephalin, consisting of a diglyceride combined with a phosphate group and a simple organic molecule such as choline or ethanolamine; they are important constituents of biological membranes.
An association of a carbohydrate and a phospholipid, such as phosphatidylinositol, found in cell membranes
A similar compound lacking a phosphate group
a lipid containing a phosphate group in its molecule, e.g. phosphatidylcholine.