Physiological processes that break down larger molecules into smaller ones constitute catabolism. An example of catabolism is hydrolysis (hi-drol'i-sis), which can decompose carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. A water molecule is used to split these substances into two parts.

The hydrolysis of a disaccharide, for instance, results in two monosaccharide molecules (see fig. 4.1; read from right to left). In this case, the bond between the simple sugars breaks, and the water molecule supplies a hydrogen atom to one sugar molecule and a hydroxyl group to the other. Thus, hydrolysis is the reverse of dehydration synthesis.

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