What part of a cell helps animals to produce energy?

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jking22 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major organelle in an animal cell that helps generate energy, in the form of ATP, is the mitochondrion (plural Mitochondria). This interesting organelle is unique in that it carries its own DNA, and is only inherited from the mother, but not the father, of an animal. The process through which mitochondria generate ATP is a three-step process. First, food molecules must be broken down by enzymes into simpler sugars either in the intestines, or in specific organelles of the cell known as lysosomes. The second step of this energy process, known as glycolysis, occurs inside the cell, but outside the mitochondria. In this step, glucose, a simple sugar, is broken down to generate a net gain of 2 ATP molecules. It is these small amounts of ATP, generated outside the cell, that provide the energy to begin the third step of energy generation. This third step consists of two parts known as the citric acid cycle, and the electron transport chain, respectively. Both of these processes occur inside the cells mitochondria and consist of a complex set of reactions. The final step of the electron transport chain, involving oxidation, is where the vast majority of the cells energy, or ATP, is generated. This oxidative step is the reason why animals need oxygen to survive, and is required in order to generate sufficient energy to sustain cellular function and life. Interestingly, This process is able to recover almost half of all the theoretically possible energy that can be generated, making it a very efficient system. Hope this helps!  

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