Glycolysis The first stage of the cellular respiration process takes place in the cytoplasm. This first step, known as glycolysis, consists of the enzymatic breakdown of a glucose molecule without the use of molecular oxygen. Because no oxygen is required, glycolysis is called an anaerobic process. The glycolysis pathway can be divided into two general sets of reactions. The first reactions make the glucose molecule unstable, and later oxidation-reduction reactions are used to synthesize ATP and capture hydrogens.
Some energy must be added to the glucose molecule in order to start glycolysis, because glucose is a very stable molecule and will not automatically break down to release energy. In glycolysis, the initial glucose molecule gains a phosphate to become glucose-6-phosphate, which is converted to fructose-6-phosphate. When a second phosphate is added, fructose-1, 6-bisphosphate (P—C6—P) is formed. This 6-carbon molecule is unstable and breaks apart to form two 3-carbon, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate molecules.
Each of the two glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate molecules acquires a second phosphate from a phosphate supply normally found in the cytoplasm. Each molecule now has 2 phosphates attached, 1, 3 isphosphoglycerate 1, 3-bisphosphoglycerate (P—C3—P). A series of reactions follows, in which energy is released by breaking chemical bonds that hold the phosphates to 1,3 bisphosphoglycerate. The energy and the phosphates are used to produce ATP. Since there are 2 1,3 bisphosphoglycerate each with 2 phosphates, a total of 4 ATPs are produced. Because 2 ATPs were used to start the process, a net yield of 2 ATPs results. In addition, 4 hydrogen atoms detach from the carbon skeleton and their electrons are transferred to NAD+to form NADH, which transfers the electrons to the electron-transport system. The 3-carbon pyruvic acid molecules that remain are the raw material for the Krebs cycle. Because glycolysis occurs in the cytoplasm and the Krebs cycle takes place inside mitochondria, the pyruvic acid must enter the mitochondrion before it can be broken down further.
In summary, the process of glycolysis takes place in the cytoplasm of a cell, where glucose (C6H12O6) enters a series of reactions that
1. Requires the use of 2 ATPs
2. Ultimately results in the formation of 4 ATPs
3. Results in the formation of 2 NADHs
4. Results in the formation of 2 molecules of pyruvic acid (CH3COCOOH)
Because 2 molecules of ATP are used to start the process and a total of 4 ATPs are generated, each glucose molecule that undergoes glycolysis produces a net yield of 2 ATPs (Figure 6.7).
The Krebs Cycle
After pyruvate (pyruvic acid) enters the mitochondrion, it is first acted upon by an enzyme, along with a molecule known as coenzyme A (CoA) (figure 6.8). This results in three significant products. Hydrogen atoms are removed and NADH is formed, a carbon is removed and carbon dioxide is formed, and a 2-carbon acetyl molecule is formed, which temporarily attaches to coenzyme A to produce acetyl-coenzyme A. (These and subsequent reactions of the Krebs cycle take place in the fluid between the membranes of the mitochondrion.) The acetyl coenzyme A enters the series of reactions known as the Krebs cycle. During the Krebs cycle, the acetyl is systematically dismantled. Its hydrogen atoms are removed and the remaining carbons are released as carbon dioxide.
The first step in this process involves the acetyl coenzyme A. The acetyl portion of the complex is transferred to a 4-carbon compound called oxaloacetate (oxaloacetic acid) and a new 6-carbon citrate molecule (citric acid) is formed. The coenzyme A is released to participate in another reaction with pyruvic acid. This newly formed citrate is broken down in a series of reactions, which ultimately produces oxaloacetate, which was used in the first step of the cycle (hence, the names Krebs cycle, citric acid cycle, and tricarboxylic acid cycle). The compounds formed during this cycle are called keto acids.
In the process, electrons are removed and, along with protons, become attached to the coenzymes NAD+and FAD. Most become attached to NAD+but some become attached to FAD. As the molecules move through the Krebs cycle, enough energy is released to allow the synthesis of 1 ATP molecule for each acetyl that enters the cycle. The ATP is formed from ADP and a phosphate already present in the mitochondria. For each pyruvate molecule that enters a mitochondrion and is processed through the Krebs cycle, 3 carbons are released as 3 carbon dioxide molecules, 5 pairs of hydrogen atoms are removed and become attached to NAD+or FAD, and 1 ATP molecule is generated. When both pyruvate molecules have been processed through the Krebs cycle, (1) all the original carbons from the glucose have been released into the atmosphere as 6 carbon dioxide molecules; (2) all the hydrogen originally found on the glucose has been transferred to either NAD+or FAD to form NADH or FADH2; and (3) 2 ATPs have been formed from the addition of phosphates to ADPs (review figure 6.8).
In summary, the Krebs cycle takes place within the mitochondria. For each pyruvate molecule that enters the Krebs cycle:
1. The three carbons of the pyruvate are released as carbon dioxide (CO2).
2. Five pairs of hydrogens become attached to hydrogen carriers to become 4 NADHs and 1 FADH2.
3. One ATP is generated.
The Electron-Transport System
The series of reactions in which energy is transferred from the electrons and protons carried by NADH and FADH2 is known as the electron-transport system (ETS) (figure 6.9). This is the final stage of aerobic cellular respiration and is dedicated to generating ATP. The reactions that make up the electron-transport system are a series of oxidationreduction reactions in which the electrons are passed from one electron carrier molecule to another until ultimately they are accepted by oxygen atoms. The negatively charged oxygen combines with the hydrogen ions to form water. It is this step that makes the process aerobic. Keep in mind that potential energy increases whenever things experiencing a repelling force are pushed together, such as adding the third phosphate to an ADP molecule. Potential energy also increases whenever things that attract each other are pulled apart, as in the separation of the protons from the electrons.
Let’s now look in just a bit more detail at what happens to the electrons and protons that are carried to the electrontransport systems by NADH and FADH2 and how these activities are used to produce ATP. The mitochondrion consists of two membranes—an outer, enclosing membrane and an inner, folded membrane. The reactions of the ETS are associated with this inner membrane. Within the structure of the membrane are several enzyme complexes, which perform particular parts of the ETS reactions (review figure 6.9). The production of ATPs involves two separate but connected processes. Electrons carried by NADH enter reactions in enzyme complex I, where they lose some energy and are eventually picked up by a coenzyme (coenzyme Q). Electrons from FADH2 enter enzyme complex II and also are eventually transferred to coenzyme Q. Coenzyme Q transfers the electrons to enzyme complex III. In complex III, the electrons lose additional energy and are transferred to cytochrome c, which transfers electrons to enzyme complex IV. In complex IV, the electrons are eventually transferred to oxygen. As the electrons lose energy in complex I, complex III, and complex IV, additional protons are pumped into the intermembrane space. When these protons flow down the concentration gradient through channels in the membrane, phosphorylase enzymes (ATPase) in the membrane are able to use the energy to generate ATP.
A total of 12 pairs of electrons and hydrogens are transported to the ETS from glycolysis and the Krebs cycle for each glucose that enters the process. In eukaryotic organisms, the pairs of electrons can be accounted for as follows: 2 pairs are carried by NADH and were generated during glycolysis outside the mitochondrion, 8 pairs are carried as NADH and were generated within the mitochondrion, and 2 pairs are carried by FADH2 and were generated within the mitochondrion.
• For each of the 8 NADHs generated within the mitochondrion, enough energy is released to produce 3 ATP molecules. Therefore, 24 ATPs are released from these
electrons carried by NADH.
• In eukaryotic cells, the electrons released during glycolysis are carried by NADH and converted to 2 FADH2 in order to shuttle them into the mitochondria. Once they are inside the mitochondria, they follow the same pathway as the other 2 FADH2s from the Krebs cycle.
The electrons carried by FADH2 are lower in energy. When these electrons go through the series of oxidationreduction reactions, they release enough energy to produce a total of 8 ATPs. Therefore, a total of 32 ATPs are produced from the hydrogen electrons that enter the ETS.
Finally, a complete accounting of all the ATPs produced during all three parts of aerobic cellular respiration results in a total of 36 ATPs: 32 from the ETS, 2 from glycolysis, and 2 from the Krebs cycle.
In summary, the electron-transport system takes place within the mitochondrion, where
1. Oxygen is used up as the oxygen atoms receive the hydrogens from NADH and FADH2 to form water (H2O).
2. NAD+and FAD are released, to be used over again.
3. Thirty-two ATPs are produced.