ID #1494

In our book, it says that "Oligosaccharides are often covalently bonded to proteins and lipids on the outer cell surface, where they serve as recognition signals." Can only Oligosaccharides serve this kind of function? (how about mono, di, and polysaccharides?)

Your textbook is giving you the typical scenario.  The reality of the situation is that the carbohydrate group needs to be big enough to display a unique identity, but small enough to not get in the way of other molecules at the cell surface.  So there has to be a happy medium.  Polysaccharides would be too big and cumbersome, while mono- or disaccharides don't really say anything all that unique.  So once again, there's a difference between the chemistry (there's no physical reason a monosaccharide can't be bound to a protein or lipid, and in fact it does happen occasionally) and the biology (oligosaccharides are far more common on the surfaces of cells).

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