Monomer molecule: A molecule which can undergo polymerization, thereby contributing constitutional units to the essential structure of a macromolecule.
Monomers can be classified in many ways. They can be subdivided into two broad classes, depending on the kind of the polymer that they form. Monomers that participate in condensation polymerization have a different stoichiometry than monomers that participate in addition polymerization:
This nylon is formed by condensation polymerization of two monomers, yielding water.
The polymerization of one kind of monomer gives a homopolymer. Many polymers are copolymers, meaning that they are derived from two different monomers. In the case of condensation polymerizations, the ratio of comonomers is usually 1:1. For example, the formation of many nylons requires equal amounts of a dicarboxylic acid and diamine. In the case of addition polymerizations, the comonomer content is often only a few percent. For example, small amounts of 1-octene monomer are copolymerized with ethylene to give specialized polyethylene.
For proteins, the monomers are amino acids. Polymerization occurs at ribosomes. Usually about 20 types of amino acid monomers are used to produce proteins. Hence proteins are not homopolymers.
For polynucleic acids (DNA/RNA), the monomers are nucleotides, each of which is made of a pentose sugar, a nitrogenous base and a phosphate group. Nucleotide monomers are found in the cell nucleus. Four types of nucleotide monomers are precursors to DNA and four different nucleotide monomers are precursors to RNA.