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Cellular Metabolism



Definition: Chemical reactions that occur in organisms in order to maintain their proper function/life. It can be divided into two types: Catabolism

- Breaks down large molecules into smaller units b. Anabolism - Constructive process where complex molecules are synthesized The end goal of metabolism produce ATP Two common systems: photosynthesis (plant cells) & cellular respiration (animal cells)



Biosynthesis of more complex molecules Anabolic reactions Complex organic compounds Carbohydrates Proteins Fats Oxygen diffusion Catabolic reactions e.g. respiration
Work CO2 + H2O + energy INTRACELLULAR ENVIRONMENT CELL Cell division Active transport Osmotic activity

Digestion & absorption

Glucose Simple organic compounds Amino acids Fatty acids




Fig 1: A general outline of cell respiration


breaks down large molecules smaller units (monomers). Cells use monomers to construct new polymer molecules or degrade the monomers to waste products (eg. CO2) releasing chemical energy. The energy is channeled into ATP molecules. ATP is an energy carrier and it transports energy to energy-consuming processes (Anabolism). Hence, catabolism provides chemical energy for maintenance and growth of cells.


This process constructs complex molecules from smaller and simple basic units. The basic units such as monosaccharides & amino acids are used to synthesize complex molecules (polysaccharides & proteins). Anabolic processes require energy. And this energy is supplied from ATP molecules.


Organic molecules such as carbohydrate are broken down bond by bond, by a series of enzymecontrolled reactions. Two enzymes involved in metabolism: oxidoreductase & hydrolase. Oxidoreductase catalyzed transfer of H/O atoms or e- from one molecule to another. e.g. AH2 + B A + BH2 (dehydrogenase) Hydrolase catalyzed formation of two products from a substrate by hydrolysis (splitting molecule with water).

ATP (adenosine triphosphate)

Cells store energy in a molecule called ATP. ATP is composed of the adenine linked to 5C sugar ribose and three phosphate groups which are held together by high energy bonds.

High energy bonds

Phosphate groups


Fig 2: Structure of ATP

When one of these bonds is broken down by hydrolysis, a great amount of energy is released which can be used in anabolic reactions. ATP hydrolysis ADP + Pi + energy (30.6 kJ mol-1)

ADP can be rephosphorylated to ATP by respiratory activity. ADP + Pi + energy (30.6 kJ mol-1)
(From respiration)



Importance of ATP

Instant source of energy within the cell. It is mobile & transports chemical energy to processes that require energy. Found in all living cells = known as universal energy carrier Act as an intermediate between respiration & energy-consuming processes.

Cell Respiration
Involves oxidation of substrate to produce ATP. The first choice of substrate is carbohydrates. Others are fats, followed by proteins. The major stages: (a) Food breakdown (digestion) (b) Glycolysis (c) Krebs Cycle (d) Respiratory Chain/Electron Transport Chain



38 ATP

acetyl coenzyme A
2 ATP 34 ATP

hydrogen pool KREBS CYCLE


H2O O2

Fig 3: The outline of aerobic respiration


The Substrates
Carbohydrates: - Usually preferred by the cells. hydrolysed - Polysaccharides monosaccharides - must occur before entering respiratory pathway. Fats: - first reserve & are mainly used when carbohydrate reserves exhaust. Proteins: - Only used when all carbohydrates & fats reserves have been used up. e.g. prolonged starvation

(a) Digestion - breaking down the large, complex

food molecules into basic units.

Complex Food Molecule Polysaccharides Proteins Fats

Basic Units (Monomers) Monosaccharides (e.g. glucose) Amino Acids Fatty Acids and Glycerol

It occurs in the digestive tract of animal. Catalysed by enzymes. e.g. starch maltose glucose
amylase maltase

Definition: A breaking down of a glucose molecule into 2 pyruvate molecules. Take place in cytoplasm/cytosol. Occur without O2. Sub-divided into 2 steps: converted (a) glucose fructose 1,6-diphosphate (b) fructose 1,6-diphosphate splits into 3C sugars, later converted into pyruvate

2 ATP are used up in step (a) while 4 ATP are produced in step (b). Net gain = 2 ATP 4 hydrogen are also released. The equation of glycolysis reaction: C6H12O6 2C3H4O3 + 4H + 2 ATP oxidised O2 present --- Pyruvate CO2 + H2O ( aerobic respiration) converted O2 absent --- Pyruvate ethanol/lactate (anaerobic respiration)

glucose ATP ADP glucose 6-phosphate

fructose 1,6-diphosphate 2X glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate 2NAD

2X 1,3-diphosphoglycerate

fructose 6-phosphate ATP ADP fructose 1,6-diphosphate

2ADP 2ATP 2X 3-phosphoglycerate 2X 2-phosphoglycerate 2X phosphoenolpyruvate

Step (a) Step (b) Fig 4: Glycolysis

2X pyruvate


NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide)

Coenzyme hydrogen acceptor. Derived from nicotinic acid (vitamin B complex). Electropositive Accept an e- & a hydrogen atom. When a hydrogen pair is accepted by NAD: - One hydrogen atom dissociates into proton & e-. H H+ + e- The other atom remains whole & attached to NAD. NAD+ + 2H NADH + H+

Aerobic Respiration
Occur in a mitochondrion The phases: (1) Each pyruvate undergoes - oxidative decarboxylation - dehydrogenation and combine with coenzyme A acetyl coenzyme A (2) Krebs cycle (3) Electron transport chain The process require O2. Yield more energy (ATP) than glycolysis.

Fig 5: The Krebs cycle


Krebs Cycle

Each cycle/1 acetyl CoA molecule produce: 1 ATP molecule 8 hydrogen atoms --- 3NADH2 + 1FADH2 2 CO2 molecules Remember: 1 glucose molecule produce 2 acetyl CoA molecules --- Krebs cycle must rotate twice. Therefore, two cycles will produce: 2 ATP 16 hydrogen atoms 4 CO2

Fig 6: Structure of mitochondrion

Electron Transport Chain

Final stage of aerobic respiration. Utilise NADH & FADH2 molecules to produce more ATP. Take place at inner membrane of the mitochondrion (eukaryotic cells). Purpose: to transfer e- from NADH/FADH2 to oxygen, via a series of electron carriers, to form water. Oxygen: the final electron acceptor.




I: NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase II: Succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase III: Ubiquinol-cytochrome c oxidoreductase IV: Cytochrome c oxidase

Q: Coenzyme Q Cyt c: Cytochrome c

Fig 7: Oxidative phosphorylation

Complex I: FMN, iron-sulfur (Fe-S) protein transfer e- from NADH to CoQ. Complex II: FAD, Fe-S protein transfer e- from FADH2 to CoQ. Complex III: cytochrome b, cytochrome c1, Fe-S protein Complex IV: cytochrome a, cytochrome a3, copper ions FMN = flavin mononucleotide FAD = flavin adenine dinucleotide


The electrons from NADH & FADH2 are at a high energy level. As the electrons are passed from NADH to oxygen, through a series of molecule carrier, some energy is released. This energy is used to pump protons (H+) from the matrix into intermembrane space. The concentration of H+ will increase in the intermembrane space, forming a concentration gradient of protons.

More acidic & more +ve charge in the space between the inner & outer mitochondrial membranes. As H+ ions/protons flow down their concentration gradient through ATP synthase complex into the matrix, energy is released and used to drive the synthesis of ATP. This process is known as chemiosmosis. The oxidation of NADH produce 3 ATP while FADH2 produce 2 ATP.

Final Analysis of Aerobic Respiration

(1) C6H12O6 + 6H2O (2) 12H2 + 6O2
glycolysis Krebs cycle

6CO2 + 12H2 + 4ATP

Respiratory chain

12H2O + 34ATP

Add (1) & (2): C6H12O6 + 6O2 6CO2 + 6H2O + 38ATP

Glycolysis 2 ATP





Acetyl coenzyme A




Krebs cycle




Total ATP 32-34 ATP


Oxidative phosphorylation

Fig 8: Energy yield from complete oxidation of glucose

Mitochondrial Shuttle Systems

NADH formed in cytosol during glycolysis cannot diffuse into the mitochondria. Because inner membrane is not permeable to NADH. In liver, kidney & heart cells, a special shuttle system transfer e- from NADH to NAD+ in the matrix. So, 3 ATP molecules are produced. In skeletal muscle & brain, another type of system operates & it requires more energy. Hence, the e- is at low energy level & accepted by ubiquinone. So, 2 ATP are generated.

Anaerobic Respiration

Obligate anaerob = exist without oxygen Facultative anaerob = exist with/without oxygen End-products will either be ethanol & CO2 as in yeasts (alcoholic fermentation) and lactate in animal cells, eg. muscle cells (lactate fermentation). In anaerobic respiration, pyruvate accepts hydrogen from NADH. Net gain = 2 ATP (from glycolysis) A considerable amount of energy remains trapped in ethanol & lactate. Hence, anaerobic respiration is an inefficient process.

Alcoholic Fermentation CO2 Pyruvate ethanal



Lactate Fermentation pyruvate lactate