These important constituents are known also as acylglycerols and most commonly as neutral fats. The IUPAC-IUB commissions on biochemical nomenclature have recommended that the names triacyl-, diacyl- and monoacylglycerol should replace the terms triglyceride, diglyceride and monoglyceride. There is a precise nomenclature to stereospecifically number (sn) the carbon atoms of the glycerol molecule. Using the Fisher projection, if the secondary hydroxyl group is oriented to the left of carbon-2, the carbon atom above carbon-2 is designated carbon-1 and the other one carbon-3. The position is indicated by the prefix "sn" before the stem-name of the compound. Any glycerolipid will be chiral when the substituents at the sn-1 and sn-3 positions are different.
Besides these acylglycerols which are formed of fatty acid chains esterifying alcohol groups of glycerol, some parent lipids have one or two long-chain alkyl groups joined by an ether linkage to glycerol, the other chain(s) being esterified with conventional fatty acid(s). These alkyl ethers of glycerol are described with their acyl counterparts (monoalkylglycerols and alkyl-diacylglycerols). Some other acylglycerols found in plants, insect production and in some mollusks have acyl parts identified as phenolic or terpenic acid instead of fatty acids.
Acylglycerides containing more than one glycerol per molecule were synthesized and have non-ionic surfactant properties. Thus, these polyglyceryl esters are now largely used for various applications in food industry and cosmetics.
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