AskDefine | Define monosaccharide

Dictionary Definition

monosaccharide n : a sugar (like sucrose or fructose) that does not hydrolyse to give other sugars; the simplest group of carbohydrates [syn: monosaccharose, simple sugar]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A simple sugar such as glucose, fructose or deoxyribose that has a single ring.


a simple sugar, composed of a single ring
  • Finnish: monosakkaridi
  • Spanish: monosacárido
  • Swedish: monosackarid

Extensive Definition

Monosaccharides (from Greek monos: single, sacchar: sugar) are the simplest carbohydrates. They cannot be hydrolyzed into simpler sugars. They consist of one sugar and are usually colorless, water-soluble, crystalline solids. Some monosaccharides have a sweet taste. Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose, galactose, xylose and ribose. Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides like sucrose (common sugar) and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). Further, each carbon atom that supports a hydroxyl group (except for the first and last) is chiral, giving rise to a number of isomeric forms all with the same chemical formula. For instance, galactose and glucose are both aldohexoses, but they have different chemical and physical properties.


With few exceptions (e.g., deoxyribose), monosaccharides have the chemical formula (CH2O)n + m with the chemical structure H(CHOH)nC=O(CHOH)mH. If n or m is zero, it is an aldehyde and is termed an aldose, otherwise it is a ketone and is termed a ketose. Monosaccharides contain either a ketone or aldehyde functional group, and hydroxyl groups on most or all of the non-carbonyl carbon atoms.

Cyclic structure

Most monosaccharides form cyclic structures, which predominate in aqueous solution, by forming hemiacetals or hemiketals (depending on whether they are aldoses or ketoses) between an alcohol and the carbonyl group of the same sugar. Glucose, for example, readily forms a hemiacetal linkage between its carbon-1 and the hydroxyl group of its carbon-5. Since such a reaction introduces an additional stereogenic center, two anomers are formed (α-isomer and β-isomer) from each distinct straight-chain monosaccharide. The interconversion between these two forms is called mutarotation.
A common way of representing the cyclic structure of monosaccharides is the Haworth projection.
In Haworth projection, the α-isomer has the OH- of the anomeric carbon under the ring structure, and the β-isomer, has the OH- of the anomeric carbon on top of the ring structure. In chair conformation, the α-isomer has the OH- of the anomeric carbon in an axial position, whereas the β-isomer has the OH- of the anomeric carbon in equatorial position.


The total number of possible stereoisomers of one compound (n) is dependent on the number of stereogenic centers (c) in the molecule. The upper limit for the number of possible stereoisomers is n = 2c. The only carbohydrate without an isomer is dihydroxyacetone or DHA.

Monosaccharide nomenclature

Monosaccharides are classified by the number of carbon atoms they contain:
Monosaccharides are classified the type of carbonyl group they contain:
Monosaccharides are classified according to their molecular configuration at the chiral carbon furthest removed from the aldehyde or ketone group. The chirality at this carbon is compared to the chirality of carbon 2 on glyceraldehyde. If it is equivalent to D-glyceraldehyde's C2, the sugar is D; if it is equivalent to L-glyceraldehyde's C2, the sugar is L. Due to the chirality of the sugar molecules, an aqueous solution of a D or L saccharides will rotate light. D-glyceraldehyde causes polarized light to rotate clockwise (dextrorotary); L-glyceraldehyde causes polarized light to rotate counterclockwise (levorotary). Unlike glyceraldehyde, D/L designation on more complex sugars is not associated with their direction of light rotation. Since more complex sugars contain multiple chiral carbons, the direction of light rotation cannot be predicted by the chirality of the carbon that defines D/L nomenclature.
All these classifications can be combined, resulting in names like D-aldohexose or ketotriose.

List of monosaccharides

This is a list of some common monosaccharides, not all are found in nature—some have been synthesized:


  1. Formation of acetals.
  2. Formation of hemiacetals and hemiketals.
  3. Formation of ketals.


External links

monosaccharide in Czech: Monosacharidy
monosaccharide in German: Einfachzucker
monosaccharide in Estonian: Monosahhariidid
monosaccharide in Spanish: Monosacárido
monosaccharide in Esperanto: Monosakarido
monosaccharide in Persian: تک‌قندی
monosaccharide in French: Ose
monosaccharide in Croatian: Monosaharidi
monosaccharide in Ido: Ozo
monosaccharide in Indonesian: Monosakarida
monosaccharide in Icelandic: Einsykrur
monosaccharide in Italian: Monosaccaridi
monosaccharide in Hebrew: חד-סוכר
monosaccharide in Lithuanian: Monosacharidas
monosaccharide in Macedonian: Моносахарид
monosaccharide in Malay (macrolanguage): Monosakarida
monosaccharide in Dutch: Monosacharide
monosaccharide in Japanese: 単糖
monosaccharide in Norwegian: Enkle sukkerarter
monosaccharide in Polish: Cukry proste
monosaccharide in Portuguese: Monossacarídeo
monosaccharide in Russian: Моносахариды
monosaccharide in Albanian: Monosakaridet
monosaccharide in Slovak: Monosacharid
monosaccharide in Serbian: Моносахарид
monosaccharide in Sundanese: Monosakarida
monosaccharide in Finnish: Monosakkaridi
monosaccharide in Swedish: Monosackarid
monosaccharide in Thai: มอโนแซ็กคาไรด์
monosaccharide in Turkish: Monosakkarit
monosaccharide in Contenese: 單醣
monosaccharide in Chinese: 單醣
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