Functions of Lipids


Lipids can serve a diverse range of functions within a cell, including:

  • Storage of energy for long-term use (e.g. triglycerides)
  • Hormonal roles (e.g. steroids such as oestrogen and testosterone)
  • Insulation – both thermal (triglycerides) and electrical (sphingolipids)
  • Protection of internal organs (e.g. triglycerides and waxes)
  • Structural components of cells (e.g. phospholipids and cholesterol)

Mnemonic: SHIPS

Types of Lipids

  • Triglycerides:  Function as a long-term energy source in animals (fats) and plants (oils)
  • Phospholipids:  Structural component of cell membranes
  • Steroids:  Act as hormones in plants and animals, and is a structural component of animal cell membranes (cholesterol)
  • Waxes:  Act as a protective layer against water loss in plant leaves and animal skin
  • Carotenoids:  Light-absorbing accessory pigment in plants (involved in photosynthesis)
  • Glycolipids:  Complexes of carbohydrate and lipid that function as cell receptor and cell recognition molecules