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Biological Energy - ADP & ATP
- Cell Biology

ATP stands for Adenosine Tri-Phosphate, and is the energy used by an organism in its daily operations. It consists of an adenosine molecule and three inorganic phosphates. After a simple reaction breaking down ATP to ADP, the energy released from the breaking of a molecular bond is the energy we use to keep ourselves alive.

ATP to ADP - Energy Release

This is done by a simple process, in which one of the phosphate molecules is broken off, therefore reducing the ATP from 3 phosphates to 2, forming ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate after removing one of the phosphates {Pi}). This is commonly wrote as ADP + Pi.

When the bond connecting the phosphate is broken, energy is released.

While ATP is constantly being used up by the body in its biological processes, the energy supply can be bolstered by new sources of glucose being made available via eating food which is then broken down by the digestive system to smaller particles that can be utilised by the body.

On top of this, ADP is built back up into ATP so that it can be used again in its more energetic state. Although this conversion requires energy, the process produces a net gain in energy, meaning that more energy is available by re-using ADP+Pi back into ATP.

Glucose and ATP

Many ATP are needed every second by a cell, so ATP is created inside them due to the demand, and the fact that organisms like ourselves are made up of millions of cells.

Glucose, a sugar that is delivered via the bloodstream, is the product of the food you eat, and this is the molecule that is used to create ATP. Sweet foods provide a rich source of readily available glucose while other foods provide the materials needed to create glucose.

This glucose is broken down in a series of enzyme controlled steps that allow the release of energy to be used by the organism. This process is called respiration.

Respiration and the Creation of ATP

ATP is created via respiration in both animals and plants. The difference with plants is the fact they attain their food from elsewhere (see photosynthesis).

In essence, materials are harnessed to create ATP for biological processes. The energy can be created via cell respiration. The process of respiration occurs in 3 steps (when oxygen is present):

  • Glycolysis
  • The Kreb's Cycle
  • The Cytochrome System

The following page looks at the chemistry involved in respiration and the creation of ATP, and why oxygen is essential for respiration in the long term.

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