14.2 Glycolysis

The term glycolysis has originated from the Greek words, glycos for sugar, and lysis for splitting. The scheme of glycolysis was given by Gustav Embden, Otto Meyerhof, and J. Parnas, and is often referred to as the EMP pathway.

In anaerobic organisms, it is the only process in respiration. Glycolysis occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell and is present in all living organisms.

In this process, glucose undergoes partial oxidation to form two molecules of pyruvic acid. In plants, this glucose is derived from sucrose, which is the end product of photosynthesis, or from storagecarbohydrates. Sucrose is converted into glucose and fructose by the enzyme, invertase, and these two monosaccharides readily enter the glycolytic pathway.

Glucose and fructose are phosphorylated to give rise to glucose-6- phosphate by the activity of the enzyme hexokinase. This phosphorylated form of glucose then isomerises to produce fructose-6-phosphate.

Subsequent steps of metabolism of glucose and fructose are same. The various steps of glycolysis are depicted in Figure 14.1. In glycolysis, a chain of ten reactions, under the control of different enzymes, takes place to produce pyruvate from glucose.

While studying the steps of glycolysis, please note the steps at which utilisation (ATP energy) or synthesis of ATP or (in this case of) NADH + H+ take place.

ATP is utilised at two steps:

first in the conversion of glucose into glucose 6-phosphate and second in the conversion of fructose 6-phosphate to fructose 1, 6-diphosphate. The fructose 1, 6-diphosphate is split into dihydroxyacetone phosphate and 3-phosphoglyceraldehyde (PGAL).

We find that there is one step where NADH + H+ is formed from NAD+; this is when 3-phosphoglyceraldehyde (PGAL) is converted to 1, 3-bisphosphoglycerate (DPGA). Two redox-equivalents are removed (in the form of two hydrogen atoms) from PGAL and transferred to a molecule of NAD+.

PGAL is oxidised and with inorganic phosphate to get converted into DPGA. The conversion of DPGA to 3-phosphoglyceric acid (PGA), is also an energy yielding process; this energy is trapped by the formation of ATP.

Another ATP is synthesised during the conversion of PEP to pyruvic acid. Can you then calculate how many ATP molecules are directly synthesised in this pathway from one glucose molecule? Pyruvic acid is then the key product of glycolysis. What is the metabolic fate ofpyruvate? This depends on the cellular need.

There are three major ways in which different cells handle pyruvic acid produced by glycolysis. These are lactic acid fermentation, alcoholic fermentation and aerobic respiration.

Fermentation takes place under anaerobic conditions in many prokaryotes and unicellular eukaryotes. For the complete oxidation of glucose to CO2 and H2O, however, organisms adopt Krebs’ cycle which is also called as aerobic respiration. This requires O2 supply.

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