Describe the ATP molecule and its function within a cell.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The ATP molecule basically functions as the power source for the cell. Sometimes it is compared to a battery, which is a pretty fair analogy, but it is more mobile and flexible in its functions than a battery is.

The acronym ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, which is just...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The ATP molecule basically functions as the power source for the cell. Sometimes it is compared to a battery, which is a pretty fair analogy, but it is more mobile and flexible in its functions than a battery is.

The acronym ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, which is just a description of the molecule's chemical components; an adenine attached to a ribose sugar, and three phosohate groups. What's important here are the phosphates; these are groups of phosphorus and oxygen which have the ability to store large amounts of chemical energy in their bonds, and release that energy under controlled conditions. The more phosphates, the more energy that can be stored, which is why triphosphate is the energy carrier rather than diphosphate (ADP), its metabolic precursor and product.

One if the curious things about ATP and related molecules is their chemical similarity to DNA. It is not clear if they are actually related in evolutionary terms, and if so, which one preceded the other.

ATP is constantly being generated and broken down inside the body, and it appears in miscellaneous roles in various biological systems, but is most prominent within the metabolic system.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team