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Cellular metabolism and fermentation

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Cellular metabolism and fermentation


Glycolysis, the Universal Process | Anaerobic Pathways | Aerobic Respiration

Glycolysis, the Universal Process | Nine reactions, each catalyzed by a specific enzyme, makeup the process we call glycolysis. ALL organisms have glycolysis occurring in their cytoplasm.

At steps 1 and 3 ATP is converted into ADP, inputting energy into the reaction as well as attaching a phosphate to the glucose. At steps 6 and 9 ADP is converted into the higher energy ATP. At step 5 NAD+ is converted into NADH + H+.

The process works on glucose, a 6-C, until step 4 splits the 6-C into two 3-C compounds. Glyceraldehyde phosphate (GAP, also known as phosphoglyceraldehyde, PGAL) is the more readily used of the two. Dihydroxyacetone phosphate can be converted into GAP by the enzyme Isomerase. The end of the glycolysis process yields two pyruvic acid (3-C) molecules, and a net gain of 2 ATP and two NADH per glucose.

Anaerobic Pathways

Under anaerobic conditions, the absence of oxygen, pyruvic acid can be routed by the organism into one of three pathways: lactic acid fermentation, alcohol fermentation, or cellular (anaerobic) respiration. Humans cannot ferment alcohol in their own bodies, we lack the genetic information to do so. These biochemical pathways, with their myriad reactions catalyzed by reaction-specific enzymes all under genetic control, are extremely complex. We will only skim the surface at this time and in this course.

Alcohol fermentation is the formation of alcohol from sugar. Yeast, when under anaerobic conditions, convert glucose to pyruvic acid via the glycolysis pathways, then go one step farther, converting pyruvic acid into ethanol, a C-2 compound.

Fermentation of ethanol. Image from W.H. Freeman and Sinauer Associates, used by permission.

Many organisms will also ferment pyruvic acid into, other chemicals, such as lactic acid. Humans ferment lactic acid in muscles where oxygen becomes depleted, resulting in localized anaerobic conditions. This lactic acid causes the muscle stiffness couch-potatoes feel after beginning exercise programs. The stiffness goes away after a few days since the cessation of strenuous activity allows aerobic conditions to return to the muscle, and the lactic acid can be converted into ATP via the normal aerobic respiration pathways.

When oxygen is present (aerobic conditions), most organisms will undergo two more steps, Kreb's Cycle, and Electron Transport, to produce their ATP. In eukaryotes, these processes occur in the mitochondria, while in prokaryotes they occur in the cytoplasm.

Acetyl Co-A: The Transition Reaction

Pyruvic acid is first altered in the transition reaction by removal of a carbon and two oxygens (which form carbon dioxide). When the carbon dioxide is removed, energy is given off, and NAD+ is converted into the higher energy form NADH. Coenzyme A attaches to the remaining 2-C (...

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