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Any of the simple sugars that serve as building blocks for carbohydrates. They are classified based on their backbone of carbon (C) atoms: Trioses have three carbon atoms, tetroses four, pentoses five, hexoses six, and heptoses seven. The carbon atoms are bonded to hydrogen atoms (H), hydroxyl groups (OH; seefunctional group), and carbonyl groups (CO), whose combinations, order, and configurations allow a large number of stereoisomers (seeisomer) to exist. Pentoses include xylose, found in woody materials; arabinose, found in gums from conifers; ribose, a component of RNA and several vitamins; and deoxyribose, a component of DNA. Important hexoses include glucose, galactose, and fructose. Monosaccharides combine with each other and other groups to form a variety of disaccharides, polysaccharides, and other carbohydrates.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on monosaccharide, visit Britannica.com.