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What is the function of a glycolipid?

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Quick Answer

A glycolipid is a lipid that has an attached carbohydrate; its function is to contribute energy and act as a marker for cellular recognition. Glycolipids appear where carbohydrate chains have a connection to phospholipids that appear on the cell membrane's exoplasmic surface. The carbohydrates appear on the exterior surface of the cell membrane for all eukaryotic cells.

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Full Answer

A glycolipid's carbohydrate structure depends on the glycolsyltransferases that bring in the lipids and glycosylhydrolases which change the glycan after they appear. Glycolipids reach from the phospholipids all the way to the aqueous area outside the membrane of the cell, and at that point, they serve as recognition points for particular chemicals while also maintaining the integrity of the cell membrane and connecting cells in order to create tissues.

Another effect of glycolipids is the determination of an individual's blood group. The glycolipids serve as receptors on the red blood cell's surface, which is important because this principle comes in handy when a swift classification is necessary in such situations as emergency transfusions. When a person receives the wrong type of blood, his immune system notices the difference and treats the new blood as a foreign substance which sometimes leads to death.

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