Polysaccharides are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together byglycosidic bonds. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples include storage polysaccharides such asstarch 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 eveninsoluble in water. When all the monosaccharides in a polysaccharide are the same type, the polysaccharide is called ahomopolysaccharide or homoglycan, but when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are calledheteropolysaccharides or heteroglycans.
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 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 oligosaccharides vary according to personal opinion. Polysaccharides are an important class ofbiological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure- or storage-related. 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.
Cellulose and chitin are examples of structural polysaccharides. Cellulose is used in the cell walls of plants and other organisms, and is said to be the most abundant organic molecule on earth. 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 viscose process), cellulose acetate, celluloid, and nitrocellulose. Chitin has a similar structure, but has nitrogen-containing side branches, increasing its strength. It is found in arthropod exoskeletons and in the cell walls of some fungi. It also has multiple uses, including surgical threads. Polysaccharides also include callose or laminarin, chrysolaminarin, xylan, arabinoxylan, mannan, fucoidan and galactomannan.