Happy Thanksgiving!
November 21, 2022
I hold your Thanksgiving gravy together.
What molecule am I?
Image of Amylopectin

If you’re making gravy for your Thanksgiving meal, you’ll need some starch. Also, called amylum, starch is the component of plants that stores energy, much as animals store fats. Corn, wheat, and potatoes are especially rich in starch.

Starch consists of complex carbohydrates; the most abundant are amylopectin (≈70–80 wt% of starch) and amylose1 (the remaining ≈20–30 wt%). Both constituents are made up of chains of α-D-glucopyranosyl units. The difference between the two is that amylopectin is a branched-chain polymer that contains 1→4 and 1→6 α-D-glucopyranosyl linkages. Amylose is a helical polymer with only 1→4 α-D-glucopyranosyl linkages.

Amylopectin and amylose are insoluble in water; but as starch they do an excellent job of thickening and stabilizing water-based mixtures such as gravy, sauces, and soups. Amylopectin has excellent film-forming properties and is used to make edible food coatings. Its presence in starch also makes it useful for sizing textiles; it adds rigidity by reordering into crystalline structures. Science Direct has more information about the chemistry and uses of amylopectin.

When you’re preparing your favorite gravy recipe for your Thanksgiving stuffing, remember that it’s the amylopectin that makes it possible.

Amylopectin hazard information

Hazard class*GHS code and hazard statement
Not a hazardous substance or mixture 

*Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

Molecule of the Future

Castaneroxy A1 is a triterpenoid found in the leaves of the European chestnut tree Castanea sativa. In 2021, Cassandra L. Quave and colleagues at Emory University (Atlanta) and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (Aurora) elucidated its structure and found that it has significant activity for reducing the virulence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) skin infections. The authors also detected two other compounds in C. sativa leaves that have the same empirical formula as castaneroxy A.

1. CAS Reg. No. 2770688-76-9.

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Amylopectin fast facts

CAS Reg. No.9037-22-3
SciFinder nomenclatureAmylopectin
Empirical formula(C6H10O5)n
Molar massVariable; 107–108 g/mol
AppearanceWhite powder
Melting point160–166 °C
Water solubilityInsoluble
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