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Sugars turn supple in solution.

Most people don't care whether the white stuff that sweetens coffee holds its shape in solution. But the rigidity of sugars that are part of larger molecules such as glycoproteins may help determine their biological function.

Researchers had thought that sugar stayed stiff, but now two carbohydrate chemists have shown that the bonds between sugar units flex quite rapidly in solution. Leszek Poppe and Herman van Halbeek of the University of Georgia in Athens used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to gauge the distances between protons in sucrose, a sugar molecule made up of a fructose and a glucose sugar unit. In rigid molecules, these distances stay constant, but in sucrose, different temperatures and magnetic field strengths cause the distances between protons of the two units to change, the researchers report in the Jan. 29 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY. Van Halbeek says he envisions molecules with these sugar-to-sugar connections tumbling every few billionths of a second but flexing 10 to 100 times as fast.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 22, 1992
Words:165
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