Carbohydrate chains are chains composed of two to potentially hundreds of carbohydrate compounds called monosaccharides. Once two of these monosaccharides combine, they form a disaccharide. If there are more than two but fewer than 10 monosaccharides in a chain, it is called an oligosaccharide, and a polysaccharide is a carbohydrate chain that consists of hundreds of monosaccharides.
Carbohydrate chains occur when at least two carbohydrate compounds link together, forming disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysacharides depending on the number of compounds in the chain. These carbohydrate compounds are considered sugars or saccharides. Monosaccharides are the simplest form of the carbohydrate compounds and combining them together creates chains.
Monosaccharides have a formula of CH2O or some derivative of that formula. The monsaccharide C6H12O6 is the chemical compound of glucose. When two of these monosaccharides combine, such as glucose and fructose, they create a carbohydrate chain. In this case, the result is sucrose.
Two to 10 monosaccharides make up oligosaccharides. This small carbohydrate chain is found in the cell membrane, and it assists in the process of cell recognition. Polysaccharides, the longest carbohydrate chain, include more complex sugar compounds, such as cellulose, glycogen and starch. They also function as energy storage receptacles and support structures.