Glucose is a hexose. The molecules shape is like that of a ring whose sides are formed by one oxygen atom and five carbon atoms. The side branches of the glucose molecule contains hydrogen atoms, OH groups and an alcohol group. These side groups and their positions are what determines the properties of a sugar and its nature.

Having the knowledge of the three dimensional structure of glucose can better help you in understanding the properties of carbohydrates.
Alpha and Beta Glucose

The two types of glucose molecules are alpha and beta glucose. The structures of alpha and beta glucose are shown below. As you can see both structures look the same but if you look closely you can see that Beta glucose is quite the opposite of alpha glucose, looking at the side groups you can see that beta glucose is formed by switching around the H and OH side groups of alpha glucose.


(Image taken from biology 11)

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9 Response to Glucose

June 1, 2011 at 1:55 AM

Just so that no one else starts to do what I do and understand the differences between alpha and beta glucose, these diagrams aren't quite right.
It's actually just one of the side chains (the right of this image), that the hydrogen and hydroxyl groups swap.
Not both :)

June 1, 2011 at 10:54 AM

thanks for pointing that out anonymous I have updated the image. It is now correct.

November 4, 2011 at 10:11 AM

My confusion, and continued frustration with this is, How does the poisitioning of an OH and an H when they're still attached to the same atom make any difference?

November 4, 2011 at 5:45 PM

They are stereo isomers of each other so they will behave differently. The difference is not so much evident just looking at one molecule but is better represented when they are joined together through glycosidic bonds. The alpha glucose is more easily taken apart while the beta glucose molecule is more compact and difficult to break the bonds.Good examples of these would be starch and cellulose. Starch is made up of numerous alpha glucose molecules joining together, though the molecule is stable it can be easily broken down into simpler sugars. Cellulose on the other hand is made up of beta glucose joining together, the molecule is therefore hard to break down.The hard parts of plants are made of cellulose while the softer parts are made of starch. you can read more here:


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