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The first process in the eukaryotic energy pathway is glycolysis, which literally means "sugar splitting." During glycolysis, single molecules of glucose are split and ultimately converted into two molecules of a substance called pyruvate; because each glucose contains six carbon atoms, each resulting pyruvate contains just three carbons. Glycolysis is actually a series of ten chemical reactions that requires the input of two ATP molecules. This input is used to generate four new ATP molecules, which means that glycolysis results in a net gain of two ATPs. Two NADH molecules are also produced; these molecules serve as electron carriers for other biochemical reactions in the cell.
Moreover when oxygen is available, the pyruvates produced by glycolysis become the input for the next portion of the eukaryotic energy pathway. During this stage, each pyruvate molecule in the cytoplasm enters the mitochondrion, where it is converted into acetyl CoA, a two-carbon energy carrier, and its third carbon combines with oxygen and is released as carbon dioxide. At the same time, an NADH carrier is also generated. Acetyl CoA then enters a pathway called the citric acid cycle, which is the second major energy process used by cells. The eight-step citric acid cycle generates three more NADH molecules and two other carrier molecules: FADH2 and GTP
The third major process in the eukaryotic energy pathway involves an electron transport chain, catalyzed by several protein complexes located in the mitochondrional inner membrane. This process, called oxidative phosphorylation, transfers electrons from NADH and FADH2 through the membrane protein complexes, and ultimately to oxygen, where they combine to form water. As electrons travel through the protein complexes in the chain, a gradient of hydrogen ions, or protons, forms across the mitochondrial membrane. Cells harness the energy of this proton gradient to create three additional ATP molecules for every electron that travels along the chain. Overall, the combination of the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation yields much more energy than fermentation - 15 times as much energy per glucose molecule! Together, these processes that occur inside the mitochondion, the citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation, are referred to as respiration, a term used for processes that couple the uptake of oxygen and the production of carbon dioxide
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