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10.1: Oxidation of Pyruvate and the TCA Cycle - Biology

10.1: Oxidation of Pyruvate and the TCA Cycle - Biology


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Oxidation of Pyruvate and the TCA Cycle

Overview of Pyruvate Metabolism and the TCA Cycle

Under appropriate conditions, pyruvate can be further oxidized. One of the most studied oxidation reactions involving pyruvate is a two-part reaction involving NAD+ and molecule called co-enzyme A, often abbreviated simply as "CoA". This reaction oxidizes pyruvate, leads to a loss of one carbon via decarboxylation, and creates a new molecule called acetyl-CoA. The resulting acetyl-CoA can enter several pathways for the biosynthesis of larger molecules or it can be routed to another pathway of central metabolism called the Citric Acid Cycle, sometimes also called the Krebs Cycle, or Tricarboxylic Acid (TCA) Cycle. Here the remaining two carbons in the acetyl group can either be further oxidized or serve again as precursors for the construction of various other molecules. We discuss these scenarios below.

The different fates of pyruvate and other end products of glycolysis

The glycolysis module left off with the end-products of glycolysis: 2 pyruvate molecules, 2 ATPs and 2 NADH molecules. This module and the module on fermentation explore what the cell can do with the pyruvate, ATP and NADH that were generated.

The fates of ATP and NADH

In general, ATP can be used for or coupled to a variety of cellular functions including biosynthesis, transport, replication etc. We will see many such examples throughout the course.

What to do with the NADH however, depends on the conditions under which the cell is growing. In some cases, the cell will opt to rapidly recycle NADH back into to NAD+. This occurs through a process called fermentation in which the electrons initially taken from the glucose derivatives are returned to more downstream products via another red/ox transfer (described in more detail in the module on fermentation). Alternatively, NADH can be recycled back into NAD+ by donating electrons to something known as an electron transport chain (this is covered in the module on respiration and electron transport).

The fate of cellular pyruvate

  • Pyruvate can be used as a terminal electron acceptor (either directly or indirectly) in fermentation reactions, and is discussed in the fermentation module.
  • Pyruvate could be secreted from the cell as a waste product.
  • Pyruvate could be further oxidized to extract more free energy from this fuel.
  • Pyruvate can serve as a valuable intermediate compound linking some of the core carbon processing metabolic pathways

The further oxidation of pyruvate

In respiring bacteria and archaea, the pyruvate is further oxidized in the cytoplasm. In aerobically respiring eukaryotic cells, the pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolysis are transported into mitochondria, which are sites of cellular respiration and house oxygen consuming electron transport chains (ETC in module on respiration and electron transport). Organisms from all three domains of life share similar mechanisms to further oxidize the pyruvate to CO2. First pyruvate is decarboxylated and covalently linked to co-enzyme A via a thioester linkage to form the molecule known as acetyl-CoA. While acetyl-CoA can feed into multiple other biochemical pathways we now consider its role in feeding the circular pathway known as the Tricarboxylic Acid Cycle, also referred to as the TCA cycle, the Citric Acid Cycle or the Krebs Cycle. This process is detailed below.

Conversion of Pyruvate into Acetyl-CoA

In a multi-step reaction catalyzed by the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase, pyruvate is oxidized by NAD+, decarboxylated, and covalently linked to a molecule of co-enzyme A via a thioester bond. The release of the carbon dioxide is important here, this reaction often results in a loss of mass from the cellas the CO2 will diffuse or be transported out of the cell and become a waste product. In addition, one molecule of NAD+ is reduced to NADH during this process per molecule of pyruvate oxidized. Remember: there are two pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolysis for every molecule of glucose metabolized; thus, if both of these pyruvate molecules are oxidized to acetyo-CoA two of the original six carbons will be converted to waste.

Suggested discussion

We have already discussed the formation of a thioester bond in another unit and lecture. Where was this specifically? What was the energetic significance of this bond? What are the similarities and differences between this example (formation of thioester with CoA) and the previous example of this chemistry?

Figure 1. Upon entering the mitochondrial matrix, a multi-enzyme complex converts pyruvate into acetyl CoA. In the process, carbon dioxide is released and one molecule of NADH is formed.

Suggested discussion

Describe the flow and transfer of energy in this reaction using good vocabulary - (e.g. reduced, oxidized, red/ox, endergonic, exergonic, thioester, etc. etc.). You can peer edit - someone can start a description, another person can make it better, another person can improve it more etc. .

In the presence of a suitable terminal electron acceptor, acetyl CoA delivers (exchanges a bond) its acetyl group to a four-carbon molecule, oxaloacetate, to form citrate (designated the first compound in the cycle). This cycle is called by different names: the citric acid cycle (for the first intermediate formed—citric acid, or citrate), the TCA cycle (since citric acid or citrate and isocitrate are tricarboxylic acids), and the Krebs cycle, after Hans Krebs, who first identified the steps in the pathway in the 1930s in pigeon flight muscles.

The Tricarboxcylic Acid (TCA) Cycle

In bacteria and archaea reactions in the TCA cycle typically happen in the cytosol. In eukaryotes, the TCA cycle takes place in the matrix of mitochondria. Almost all (but not all) of the enzymes of the TCA cycle are water soluble (not in the membrane), with the single exception of the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the mitochondrion (in eukaryotes). Unlike glycolysis, the TCA cycle is a closed loop: the last part of the pathway regenerates the compound used in the first step. The eight steps of the cycle are a series of red/ox, dehydration, hydration, and decarboxylation reactions that produce two carbon dioxide molecules, one ATP, and reduced forms of NADH and FADH2.

Figure 2. In the TCA cycle, the acetyl group from acetyl CoA is attached to a four-carbon oxaloacetate molecule to form a six-carbon citrate molecule. Through a series of steps, citrate is oxidized, releasing two carbon dioxide molecules for each acetyl group fed into the cycle. In the process, three NAD+ molecules are reduced to NADH, one FAD+ molecule is reduced to FADH2, and one ATP or GTP (depending on the cell type) is produced (by substrate-level phosphorylation). Because the final product of the TCA cycle is also the first reactant, the cycle runs continuously in the presence of sufficient reactants.

Attribution: “Yikrazuul”/Wikimedia Commons (modified)

Note

We are explicitly making reference to eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea when we discuss the location of the TCA cycle because many beginning students of biology tend to exclusively associate the TCA cycle with mitochondria. Yes, the TCA cycle occurs in the mitochondria of eukaryotic cells. However, this pathway is not exclusive to eukaryotes; it occurs in bacteria and archaea too!

Steps in the TCA Cycle

Step 1:

The first step of the cycle is a condensation reaction involving the two-carbon acetyl group of acetyl-CoA with one four-carbon molecule of oxaloacetate. The products of this reaction are the six-carbon molecule citrate and free co-enzyme A. This step is considered irreversible because it is so highly exergonic. Moreover, the rate of this reaction is controlled through negative feedback by ATP. If ATP levels increase, the rate of this reaction decreases. If ATP is in short supply, the rate increases. If not already, the reason will become evident shortly.

Step 2:

In step two, citrate loses one water molecule and gains another as citrate is converted into its isomer, isocitrate.

Step 3:

In step three, isocitrate is oxidized by NAD+ and decarboxylated. Keep track of the carbons! This carbon now more than likely leaves the cell as waste and is no longer available for building new biomolecules. The oxidation of isocitrate therefore produces a five-carbon molecule, α-ketoglutarate, a molecule of CO2 and NADH. This step is also regulated by negative feedback from ATP and NADH, and via positive feedback from ADP.

Step 4:

Step 4 is catalyzed by the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase. Here, α-ketoglutarate is further oxidized by NAD+. This oxidation again leads to a decarboxylation and thus the loss of another carbon as waste. So far two carbons have come into the cycle from acetyl-CoA and two have left as CO2. At this stage, there is no net gain of carbons assimilated from the glucose molecules that are oxidized to this stage of metabolism. Unlike the previous step however succinate dehydrogenase - like pyruvate dehydrogenase before it - couples the free energy of the exergonic red/ox and decarboxylation reaction to drive the formation of a thioester bond between the substrate co-enzyme A and succinate (what is left after the decarboxylation). Succinate dehydrogenase is regulated by feedback inhibition of ATP, succinyl-CoA, and NADH.

Suggested discussion

We have seen several steps in this and other pathways that are regulated by allosteric feedback mechanisms. Is there something(s) in common about these steps in the TCA cycle? Why might these be good steps to regulate?

Suggested discussion

The thioester bond has reappeared! Use the terms we've been learning (e.g. reduction, oxidation, coupling, exergonic, endergonic etc.) to describe the formation of this bond and below its hydrolysis.

Step 5:

In step five, a substrate level phosphorylation event occurs. Here an inorganic phosphate (Pi) is added to GDP or ADP to form GTP (an ATP equivalent for our purposes) or ATP. The energy that drives this substrate level phosphorylation event comes from the hydrolysis of the CoA molecule from succinyl~CoA to form succinate. Why is either GTP or ATP produced? In animal cells there are two isoenzymes (different forms of an enzyme that carries out the same reaction), for this step, depending upon the type of animal tissue in which those cells are found. One isozyme is found in tissues that use large amounts of ATP, such as heart and skeletal muscle. This isozyme produces ATP. The second isozyme of the enzyme is found in tissues that have a large number of anabolic pathways, such as liver. This isozyme produces GTP. GTP is energetically equivalent to ATP; however, its use is more restricted. In particular, the process of protein synthesis primarily uses GTP. Most bacterial systems produce GTP in this reaction.

Step 6:

Step six is another red/ox reactions in which succinate is oxidized by FAD+ into fumarate. Two hydrogen atoms are transferred to FAD+, producing FADH2. The difference in reduction potential between the fumarate/succinate and NAD+/NADH half reactions is insufficient to make NAD+ a suitable reagent for oxidizing succinate with NAD+ under cellular conditions. However, the difference in reduction potential with the FAD+/FADH2 half reaction is adequate to oxidize succinate and reduce FAD+. Unlike NAD+, FAD+ remains attached to the enzyme and transfers electrons to the electron transport chain directly. This process is made possible by the localization of the enzyme catalyzing this step inside the inner membrane of the mitochondrion or plasma membrane (depending on whether the organism in question is eukaryotic or not).

Step 7:

Water is added to fumarate during step seven, and malate is produced. The last step in the citric acid cycle regenerates oxaloacetate by oxidizing malate with NAD+. Another molecule of NADH is produced in the process.

Summary

Note that this process (oxidation of pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA followed by one "turn" of the TCA cycle) completely oxidizes 1 molecule of pyruvate, a 3 carbon organic acid, to 3 molecules of CO2. Overall 4 molecules of NADH, 1 molecule of FADH2, and 1 molecule of GTP (or ATP) are also produced. For respiring organisms this is a significant mode of energy extraction, since each molecule of NADH and FAD2 can feed directly into the electron transport chain, and as we will soon see, the subsequent red/ox reactions that are driven by this process will indirectly power the synthesis of ATP. The discussion so far suggests that the TCA cycle is primarily an energy extracting pathway; evolved to extract or convert as much potential energy from organic molecules to a form that cells can use, ATP (or the equivalent) or an energized membrane. However, - and let us not forget - the other important outcome of evolving this pathway is the ability to produce several precursor or substrate molecules necessary for various catabolic reactions (this pathway provides some of the early building blocks to make bigger molecules). As we will discuss below, there is a strong link between carbon metabolism and energy metabolism.

Exercise

TCA Energy Stories

Work on building some energy stories yourself

There are a few interesting reactions that involve large transfers of energy and rearrangements of matter. Pick a few. Rewrite a reaction in your notes, and practice constructing an energy story. You now have the tools to discuss the energy redistribution in the context of broad ideas and terms like exergonic and endergonic. You also have the ability to begin discussing mechanism (how these reactions happen) by invoking enzyme catalysts. See your instructor and/or TA and check with you classmates to self-test on how you're doing.

Connections to Carbon Flow

One hypothesis that we have started exploring in this reading and in class is the idea that "central metabolism" evolved as a means of generating carbon precursors for catabolic reactions. Our hypothesis also states that as cells evolved, these reactions became linked into pathways: glycolysis and the TCA cycle, as a means to maximize their effectiveness for the cell. We can postulate that a side benefit to evolving this metabolic pathway was the generation of NADH from the complete oxidation of glucose - we saw the beginning of this idea when we discussed fermentation. We have already discussed how glycolysis not only provides ATP from substrate level phosphorylation, but also yields a net of 2 NADH molecules and 6 essential precursors: glucose-6-P, fructose-6-P, 3-phosphoglycerate, phosphoenolpyruvate, and of course, pyruvate. While ATP can be used by the cell directly as an energy source, NADH posses a problem and must be recycled back into NAD+, to keep the pathway in balance. As we see in detail in the fermentation module, the most ancient way cells deal with this problem is to use fermentation reactions to regenerate NAD+.

During the process of pyruvate oxidation via the TCA cycle 4 additional essential precursors are formed: acetyl~CoA, α-ketoglutarate, oxaloacetate, and succinyl~CoA. Three molecules of CO2 are lost and this represents a net loss of mass for the cell. These precursors, however, are substrates for a variety of catabolic reactions including the production of amino acids, fatty acids, and various co-factors, such as heme. This means that the rate of reactions through the TCA cycle will be sensitive to the concentrations of each metabolic intermediate (more on the thermodynamics in class). A metabolic intermediate is a compound that is produced by one reaction (a product) and then acts as a substrate for the next reaction. This also means that metabolic intermediates, in particular the 4 essential precursors, can be removed at any time for catabolic reactions, if there is a demand, changing the thermodynamics of the cycle.

Not all cells have a functional TCA cycle

Since all cells require the ability of make these precursor molecules, one might expect that all organisms would have a fully functional TCA cycle. In fact, the cells of many organisms DO NOT have all of the enzymes required to form a complete cycle - all cells, however, DO have the capability of making the 4 TCA cycle precursors noted in the previous paragraph. How can the cells make precursors and not have a full cycle? Remember that most of these reactions are freely reversible, so, if NAD+ is required to for the oxidation of pyruvate or acetyl~CoA, then the reverse reactions would require NADH. This process is often referred to as the reductive TCA cycle. To drive these reactions in reverse (with respect to the direction discussed above) requires energy, in this case carried by ATP and NADH. If you get ATP and NADH driving a pathway one direction, it stands to reason that driving it in reverse will require ATP and NADH as "inputs". So, organisms that do not have a full cycle can still make the 4 key metabolic precursors by using previously extracted energy and electrons (ATP and NADH) to drive some key steps in reverse.

Suggested discussion

Why might some organisms not have evolved a fully oxidative TCA cycle? Remember, cells need to keep a balance in the NAD+ to NADH ratio as well as the [ATP]/[AMP]/[ADP] ratios.

Additional Links

Here are some additional links to videos and pages that you may find useful.

Chemwiki Links

  • Chemwiki TCA cycle - link down until key content corrections are made to the resource

Khan Academy Links

  • Khan Academy TCA cycle - link down until key content corrections are made to the resource

Breakdown of Pyruvate

In order for pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, to enter the next pathway, it must undergo several changes. The conversion is a three-step process ([Figure 1]).

Step 1. A carboxyl group is removed from pyruvate, releasing a molecule of carbon dioxide into the surrounding medium. The result of this step is a two-carbon hydroxyethyl group bound to the enzyme (pyruvate dehydrogenase). This is the first of the six carbons from the original glucose molecule to be removed. This step proceeds twice (remember: there are two pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolsis) for every molecule of glucose metabolized thus, two of the six carbons will have been removed at the end of both steps.

Step 2. The hydroxyethyl group is oxidized to an acetyl group, and the electrons are picked up by NAD + , forming NADH. The high-energy electrons from NADH will be used later to generate ATP.

Step 3. The enzyme-bound acetyl group is transferred to CoA, producing a molecule of acetyl CoA.

Figure 1: Upon entering the mitochondrial matrix, a multi-enzyme complex converts pyruvate into acetyl CoA. In the process, carbon dioxide is released and one molecule of NADH is formed.

Note that during the second stage of glucose metabolism, whenever a carbon atom is removed, it is bound to two oxygen atoms, producing carbon dioxide, one of the major end products of cellular respiration.


Biology 171

By the end of this section, you will be able to do the following:

  • Explain how a circular pathway, such as the citric acid cycle, fundamentally differs from a linear biochemical pathway, such as glycolysis
  • Describe how pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, is prepared for entry into the citric acid cycle

If oxygen is available, aerobic respiration will go forward. In eukaryotic cells, the pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolysis are transported into the mitochondria, which are the sites of cellular respiration. There, pyruvate is transformed into an acetyl group that will be picked up and activated by a carrier compound called coenzyme A (CoA). The resulting compound is called acetyl CoA . CoA is derived from vitamin B5, pantothenic acid. Acetyl CoA can be used in a variety of ways by the cell, but its major function is to deliver the acetyl group derived from pyruvate to the next stage of the pathway in glucose catabolism.

Breakdown of Pyruvate

In order for pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, to enter the next pathway, it must undergo several changes. The conversion is a three-step process ((Figure)).

Step 1. A carboxyl group is removed from pyruvate, releasing a molecule of carbon dioxide into the surrounding medium. This reaction creates a two-carbon hydroxyethyl group bound to the enzyme (pyruvate dehydrogenase). We should note that this is the first of the six carbons from the original glucose molecule to be removed. (This step proceeds twice because there are two pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolsis for every molecule of glucose metabolized anaerobically thus, two of the six carbons will have been removed at the end of both steps.)

Step 2. The hydroxyethyl group is oxidized to an acetyl group, and the electrons are picked up by NAD + , forming NADH. The high-energy electrons from NADH will be used later to generate ATP.

Step 3. The enzyme-bound acetyl group is transferred to CoA, producing a molecule of acetyl CoA.


Note that during the second stage of glucose metabolism, whenever a carbon atom is removed, it is bound to two oxygen atoms, producing carbon dioxide, one of the major end products of cellular respiration.

Acetyl CoA to CO2

In the presence of oxygen, acetyl CoA delivers its acetyl (2C) group to a four-carbon molecule, oxaloacetate, to form citrate, a six-carbon molecule with three carboxyl groups this pathway will harvest the remainder of the extractable energy from what began as a glucose molecule and release the remaining four CO2 molecules. This single pathway is called by different names: the citric acid cycle (for the first intermediate formed—citric acid, or citrate—when acetate joins to the oxaloacetate), the TCA cycle (because citric acid or citrate and isocitrate are tricarboxylic acids), and the Krebs cycle , after Hans Krebs, who first identified the steps in the pathway in the 1930s in pigeon flight muscles.

Citric Acid Cycle

Like the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl CoA, the citric acid cycle takes place in the matrix of mitochondria. Almost all of the enzymes of the citric acid cycle are soluble, with the single exception of the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. Unlike glycolysis, the citric acid cycle is a closed loop: the last part of the pathway regenerates the compound used in the first step. The eight steps of the cycle are a series of redox, dehydration, hydration, and decarboxylation reactions that produce two carbon dioxide molecules, one GTP/ATP, and the reduced carriers NADH and FADH2 ((Figure)). This is considered an aerobic pathway because the NADH and FADH2 produced must transfer their electrons to the next pathway in the system, which will use oxygen. If this transfer does not occur, the oxidation steps of the citric acid cycle also do not occur. Note that the citric acid cycle produces very little ATP directly and does not directly consume oxygen.


Steps in the Citric Acid Cycle

Step 1. Prior to the first step, a transitional phase occurs during which pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl CoA. Then, the first step of the cycle begins: This condensation step combines the two-carbon acetyl group with a four-carbon oxaloacetate molecule to form a six-carbon molecule of citrate. CoA is bound to a sulfhydryl group (-SH) and diffuses away to eventually combine with another acetyl group. This step is irreversible because it is highly exergonic. The rate of this reaction is controlled by negative feedback and the amount of ATP available. If ATP levels increase, the rate of this reaction decreases. If ATP is in short supply, the rate increases.

Step 2. In step two, citrate loses one water molecule and gains another as citrate is converted into its isomer, isocitrate.

Step 3. In step three, isocitrate is oxidized, producing a five-carbon molecule, α-ketoglutarate, along with a molecule of CO2 and two electrons, which reduce NAD + to NADH. This step is also regulated by negative feedback from ATP and NADH and a positive effect of ADP.

Step 4. Steps three and four are both oxidation and decarboxylation steps, which as we have seen, release electrons that reduce NAD + to NADH and release carboxyl groups that form CO2 molecules. Alpha-ketoglutarate is the product of step three, and a succinyl group is the product of step four. CoA binds with the succinyl group to form succinyl CoA. The enzyme that catalyzes step four is regulated by feedback inhibition of ATP, succinyl CoA, and NADH.

Step 5. In step five, a phosphate group is substituted for coenzyme A, and a high-energy bond is formed. This energy is used in substrate-level phosphorylation (during the conversion of the succinyl group to succinate) to form either guanine triphosphate (GTP) or ATP. There are two forms of the enzyme, called isoenzymes, for this step, depending upon the type of animal tissue in which they are found. One form is found in tissues that use large amounts of ATP, such as heart and skeletal muscle. This form produces ATP. The second form of the enzyme is found in tissues that have a high number of anabolic pathways, such as liver. This form produces GTP. GTP is energetically equivalent to ATP however, its use is more restricted. In particular, protein synthesis primarily uses GTP.

Step 6. Step six is a dehydration process that converts succinate into fumarate. Two hydrogen atoms are transferred to FAD, reducing it to FADH2. (Note: the energy contained in the electrons of these hydrogens is insufficient to reduce NAD + but adequate to reduce FAD.) Unlike NADH, this carrier remains attached to the enzyme and transfers the electrons to the electron transport chain directly. This process is made possible by the localization of the enzyme catalyzing this step inside the inner membrane of the mitochondrion.

Step 7. Water is added by hydrolysis to fumarate during step seven, and malate is produced. The last step in the citric acid cycle regenerates oxaloacetate by oxidizing malate. Another molecule of NADH is then produced in the process.

Products of the Citric Acid Cycle

Two carbon atoms come into the citric acid cycle from each acetyl group, representing four out of the six carbons of one glucose molecule. Two carbon dioxide molecules are released on each turn of the cycle however, these do not necessarily contain the most recently added carbon atoms. The two acetyl carbon atoms will eventually be released on later turns of the cycle thus, all six carbon atoms from the original glucose molecule are eventually incorporated into carbon dioxide. Each turn of the cycle forms three NADH molecules and one FADH2 molecule. These carriers will connect with the last portion of aerobic respiration, the electron transport chain, to produce ATP molecules. One GTP or ATP is also made in each cycle. Several of the intermediate compounds in the citric acid cycle can be used in synthesizing nonessential amino acids therefore, the cycle is amphibolic (both catabolic and anabolic).

Section Summary

In the presence of oxygen, pyruvate is transformed into an acetyl group attached to a carrier molecule of coenzyme A. The resulting acetyl CoA can enter several pathways, but most often, the acetyl group is delivered to the citric acid cycle for further catabolism. During the conversion of pyruvate into the acetyl group, a molecule of carbon dioxide and two high-energy electrons are removed. The carbon dioxide accounts for two (conversion of two pyruvate molecules) of the six carbons of the original glucose molecule. The electrons are picked up by NAD + , and the NADH carries the electrons to a later pathway for ATP production. At this point, the glucose molecule that originally entered cellular respiration has been completely oxidized. Chemical potential energy stored within the glucose molecule has been transferred to electron carriers or has been used to synthesize a few ATPs.

The citric acid cycle is a series of redox and decarboxylation reactions that removes high-energy electrons and carbon dioxide. The electrons, temporarily stored in molecules of NADH and FADH2, are used to generate ATP in a subsequent pathway. One molecule of either GTP or ATP is produced by substrate-level phosphorylation on each turn of the cycle. There is no comparison of the cyclic pathway with a linear one.

Free Response

What is the primary difference between a circular pathway and a linear pathway?

In a circular pathway, the final product of the reaction is also the initial reactant. The pathway is self-perpetuating, as long as any of the intermediates of the pathway are supplied. Circular pathways are able to accommodate multiple entry and exit points, thus being particularly well suited for amphibolic pathways. In a linear pathway, one trip through the pathway completes the pathway, and a second trip would be an independent event.

Glossary


Oxidation of Pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA

1. Pyruvate oxidatively decarboxylated to acetyl-CoA (“active acetate”) before en­tering the citric acid cycle.

2. The reaction is catalysed by the multi-enzyme complex consisting of sev­eral different enzymes. This complex is known as pyruvate dehydrogenase com­plex.

3. Pyruvate is decarboxylated in the pres­ence of thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP) to a hydroxymethyl derivative which reacts with oxidized lipoate to from S-acetyl lipoate being catalyzed by the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase.

4. S-acetyl lipoate reacts with coenzyme A to form acetyl-CoA and reduced lipoate in presence of di-hydrolipoyl transacetylase.

5. The reduced lipoate is re-oxidized by FAD in presence of dihydrolipoyl dehydroge­nase.

6. Finally, the reduced FAD is oxidized by NAD + . The reduced NAD (NADH + H + ) enters the respiratory chain producing 3 ATP.

7. The pyruvate dehydrogenase complex consists of about 29 mols of pyruvate de­hydrogenase and 8 mols of dihydorlipoyl dehydrogenase distributed around 1 mol of transacetylase.

1. The increased pyruvic acid from carbohy­drate diet inhibits pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase for which active pyruvate de­hydrogenase is formed. This causes the rapid breakdown of pyruvic acid to form acetyl-CoA.

2. Actyl-CoA and NADH formed by en­hanced p-oxidation during starvation and diabetes mcllitus activate pyruvate dehy­drogenase kinase decreasing the “active” form of pyruvate dehydrogenase. Hence, less pyruvic acid is catabolized and gly­colysis is also inhibited.

Arsenitc inhibits pyruvate dehydrogenase and dietary deficiency of thiamine also allows pyru­vate to accumulate. Chronic alcoholics also suffer from the defi­ciency of thiamine which results in the accumulation of pyruvic acid. Lactic acidosis is caused by the inherited deficiency of pyruvate dehydroge­nase.


Chapter Summary

ATP functions as the energy currency for cells. It allows the cell to store energy briefly and transport it within the cell to support endergonic chemical reactions. The structure of ATP is that of an RNA nucleotide with three phosphates attached. As ATP is used for energy, a phosphate group or two are detached, and either ADP or AMP is produced. Energy derived from glucose catabolism is used to convert ADP into ATP. When ATP is used in a reaction, the third phosphate is temporarily attached to a substrate in a process called phosphorylation. The two processes of ATP regeneration that are used in conjunction with glucose catabolism are substrate-level phosphorylation and oxidative phosphorylation through the process of chemiosmosis.

7.2 Glycolysis

Glycolysis is the first pathway used in the breakdown of glucose to extract energy. It was probably one of the earliest metabolic pathways to evolve and is used by nearly all of the organisms on earth. Glycolysis consists of two parts: The first part prepares the six-carbon ring of glucose for cleavage into two three-carbon sugars. ATP is invested in the process during this half to energize the separation. The second half of glycolysis extracts ATP and high-energy electrons from hydrogen atoms and attaches them to NAD + . Two ATP molecules are invested in the first half and four ATP molecules are formed by substrate phosphorylation during the second half. This produces a net gain of two ATP and two NADH molecules for the cell.

7.3 Oxidation of Pyruvate and the Citric Acid Cycle

In the presence of oxygen, pyruvate is transformed into an acetyl group attached to a carrier molecule of coenzyme A. The resulting acetyl CoA can enter several pathways, but most often, the acetyl group is delivered to the citric acid cycle for further catabolism. During the conversion of pyruvate into the acetyl group, a molecule of carbon dioxide and two high-energy electrons are removed. The carbon dioxide accounts for two (conversion of two pyruvate molecules) of the six carbons of the original glucose molecule. The electrons are picked up by NAD + , and the NADH carries the electrons to a later pathway for ATP production. At this point, the glucose molecule that originally entered cellular respiration has been completely oxidized. Chemical potential energy stored within the glucose molecule has been transferred to electron carriers or has been used to synthesize a few ATPs.

The citric acid cycle is a series of redox and decarboxylation reactions that remove high-energy electrons and carbon dioxide. The electrons temporarily stored in molecules of NADH and FADH2 are used to generate ATP in a subsequent pathway. One molecule of either GTP or ATP is produced by substrate-level phosphorylation on each turn of the cycle. There is no comparison of the cyclic pathway with a linear one.

7.4 Oxidative Phosphorylation

The electron transport chain is the portion of aerobic respiration that uses free oxygen as the final electron acceptor of the electrons removed from the intermediate compounds in glucose catabolism. The electron transport chain is composed of four large, multiprotein complexes embedded in the inner mitochondrial membrane and two small diffusible electron carriers shuttling electrons between them. The electrons are passed through a series of redox reactions, with a small amount of free energy used at three points to transport hydrogen ions across a membrane. This process contributes to the gradient used in chemiosmosis. The electrons passing through the electron transport chain gradually lose energy, High-energy electrons donated to the chain by either NADH or FADH2 complete the chain, as low-energy electrons reduce oxygen molecules and form water. The level of free energy of the electrons drops from about 60 kcal/mol in NADH or 45 kcal/mol in FADH2 to about 0 kcal/mol in water. The end products of the electron transport chain are water and ATP. A number of intermediate compounds of the citric acid cycle can be diverted into the anabolism of other biochemical molecules, such as nonessential amino acids, sugars, and lipids. These same molecules can serve as energy sources for the glucose pathways.

7.5 Metabolism without Oxygen

If NADH cannot be oxidized through aerobic respiration, another electron acceptor is used. Most organisms will use some form of fermentation to accomplish the regeneration of NAD + , ensuring the continuation of glycolysis. The regeneration of NAD + in fermentation is not accompanied by ATP production therefore, the potential of NADH to produce ATP using an electron transport chain is not utilized.

7.6 Connections of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Lipid Metabolic Pathways

The breakdown and synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids connect with the pathways of glucose catabolism. The simple sugars are galactose, fructose, glycogen, and pentose. These are catabolized during glycolysis. The amino acids from proteins connect with glucose catabolism through pyruvate, acetyl CoA, and components of the citric acid cycle. Cholesterol synthesis starts with acetyl groups, and the components of triglycerides come from glycerol-3-phosphate from glycolysis and acetyl groups produced in the mitochondria from pyruvate.

7.7 Regulation of Cellular Respiration

Cellular respiration is controlled by a variety of means. The entry of glucose into a cell is controlled by the transport proteins that aid glucose passage through the cell membrane. Most of the control of the respiration processes is accomplished through the control of specific enzymes in the pathways. This is a type of negative feedback, turning the enzymes off. The enzymes respond most often to the levels of the available nucleosides ATP, ADP, AMP, NAD + , and FAD. Other intermediates of the pathway also affect certain enzymes in the systems.


Mitochondrial pyruvate and fatty acid flux modulate MICU1-dependent control of MCU activity

The tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle converts the end products of glycolysis and fatty acid β-oxidation into the reducing equivalents NADH and FADH2 Although mitochondrial matrix uptake of Ca 2+ enhances ATP production, it remains unclear whether deprivation of mitochondrial TCA substrates alters mitochondrial Ca 2+ flux. We investigated the effect of TCA cycle substrates on MCU-mediated mitochondrial matrix uptake of Ca 2+ , mitochondrial bioenergetics, and autophagic flux. Inhibition of glycolysis, mitochondrial pyruvate transport, or mitochondrial fatty acid transport triggered expression of the MCU gatekeeper MICU1 but not the MCU core subunit. Knockdown of mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) isoforms or expression of the dominant negative mutant MPC1 R97W resulted in increased MICU1 protein abundance and inhibition of MCU-mediated mitochondrial matrix uptake of Ca 2+ We also found that genetic ablation of MPC1 in hepatocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts resulted in reduced resting matrix Ca 2+ , likely because of increased MICU1 expression, but resulted in changes in mitochondrial morphology. TCA cycle substrate-dependent MICU1 expression was mediated by the transcription factor early growth response 1 (EGR1). Blocking mitochondrial pyruvate or fatty acid flux was linked to increased autophagy marker abundance. These studies reveal a mechanism that controls the MCU-mediated Ca 2+ flux machinery and that depends on TCA cycle substrate availability. This mechanism generates a metabolic homeostatic circuit that protects cells from bioenergetic crisis and mitochondrial Ca 2+ overload during periods of nutrient stress.

Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

Figures

Figure 1:. Deprivation of TCA cycle metabolites…

Figure 1:. Deprivation of TCA cycle metabolites increases MICU1 protein abundance.

Figure 2.. MPC1-deficient hepatocytes exhibit reduced MCU-mediated…

Figure 2.. MPC1-deficient hepatocytes exhibit reduced MCU-mediated mitochondrial Ca 2+ uptake.

A) MPC1 transcript was analyzed…

Figure 3:. EGR1 but not EGR4 regulates…

Figure 3:. EGR1 but not EGR4 regulates MICU1 transcription under substrate deficiency

Figure 4:. Loss of mitochondrial pyruvate flux…

Figure 4:. Loss of mitochondrial pyruvate flux perturbs cellular bioenergetics

A) Measurement of oxygen consumption…

Figure 5.. MICU1 alters mitochondrial oxygen consumption…

Figure 5.. MICU1 alters mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate in MPC1 deleted hepatocytes.

Figure 6:. Loss of mitochondrial pyruvate flux…

Figure 6:. Loss of mitochondrial pyruvate flux upregulates autophagic flux

A) Representative confocal images of…

Figure 7:. Pharmacologic blockade of fatty acid…

Figure 7:. Pharmacologic blockade of fatty acid flux and genetic ablation of MPC1 elicit autophagic…


10.1: Oxidation of Pyruvate and the TCA Cycle - Biology

In this section, you will explore the following question:

  • How is pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, prepared for entry into the citric acid cycle?
  • What are the products of the citric acid cycle?

Connection for AP ® Courses

In the next stage of cellular respiration—and in the presence of oxygen—pyruvate produced in glycolysis is transformed into an acetyl group attached to a carrier molecule of coenzyme A. The resulting acetyl CoA is usually delivered from the cytoplasm to the mitochondria, a process that uses some ATP. In the mitochondria, acetyl CoA continues on to the citric acid cycle. The citric acid cycle (CAC or TCA- tricarboxylic acid cycle) is also known as the Krebs cycle. During the conversion of pyruvate into the acetyl group, a molecule of CO2 and two high-energy electrons are removed. (Remember that glycolysis produces two molecules of pyruvate, and each can attach to a molecule of CoA and then enter the citric acid cycle. (A simple rule is to “count the carbons.” Because matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, we must account for everything.) The electrons are picked up by NAD + , and NADH carries the electrons to a later pathway (the electron transport chain described below) for ATP production. The glucose molecule that originally entered cellular respiration in glycolysis has been completely oxidized. Chemical potential energy stored within the glucose molecules has been transferred to NADH or has been used to synthesize ATP molecules.

The citric acid cycle occurs in the mitochondrial matrix and involves a series of redox and decarboxylation reactions that again remove high energy electrons and produce CO2. These electrons are carried by NADH and FADH2 to the electron transport chain located in the cristae of the mitochondrion. (You do not need to memorize the steps in the citric acid cycle, but if provided with a diagram of the cycle, you should be able to interpret the steps.) During the cycle, ATP is synthesized from ADP and inorganic phosphate by substrate-level phosphorylation.

Big Idea 2 Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.
Enduring Understanding 2.A Growth, reproduction and maintenance of living systems require free energy and matter.
Essential Knowledge 2.A.2 Organisms capture and store free energy for use in biological processes.
Science Practice 1.4 The student can use representations and models to analyze situations or solve problems qualitatively and quantitatively.
Science Practice 3.1 The student can pose scientific questions.
Learning Objective 2.4 The student is able to use representations to pose scientific questions about what mechanisms and structural features allow organisms to capture, store, and use free energy.
Essential Knowledge 2.A.2 Organisms capture and store free energy for use in biological processes
Science Practice 6.2 The student can construct explanations of phenomena based on evidence produced through scientific practices.
Learning Objective 2.5 The student is able to construct explanations of the mechanisms and structural features of cells that allow organisms to capture, store, or use free energy.
Big Idea 4 Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.
Enduring Understanding 4.A Interactions within biological systems lead to complex properties.
Essential Knowledge 4.A.2 The structure and function of subcellular components, and their interactions, provide essential cellular processes.
Science Practice 1.4 The student can use representations and models to analyze situations or solve problems qualitatively and quantitatively.
Learning Objective 4.6 The student is able to use representations and models to analyze situations qualitatively to describe how interactions of subcellular structures, which possess specialized functions, provide essential functions.

The Science Practice Challenge Questions contain additional test questions for this section that will help you prepare for the AP exam. These questions address the following standards:
[APLO 2.1][APLO 2.5][APLO 2.16][APLO 2.17][APLO 2.18]

If oxygen is available, aerobic respiration will go forward. In eukaryotic cells, the pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolysis are transported into mitochondria. There, pyruvate will be transformed into an acetyl group that will be picked up and activated by a carrier compound called coenzyme A (CoA). The resulting compound is called acetyl CoA . CoA is made from vitamin B5, pantothenic acid. Acetyl CoA can be used in a variety of ways by the cell, but its major function is to deliver the acetyl group derived from pyruvate to the next stage of the pathway in glucose catabolism.

Breakdown of Pyruvate

In order for pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, to enter the next pathway, it must undergo several changes. The conversion is a three-step process (Figure 7.9).

Step 1. A carboxyl group is removed from pyruvate, releasing a molecule of carbon dioxide into the surrounding medium. The result of this step is a two-carbon hydroxyethyl group bound to the enzyme (pyruvate dehydrogenase). This is the first of the six carbons from the original glucose molecule to be removed. This step proceeds twice (remember: there are two pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolsis) for every molecule of glucose metabolized thus, two of the six carbons will have been removed at the end of both steps.

Step 2. The hydroxyethyl group is oxidized to an acetyl group, and the electrons are picked up by NAD + , forming NADH. The high-energy electrons from NADH will be used later to generate ATP.

Step 3. The enzyme-bound acetyl group is transferred to CoA, producing a molecule of acetyl CoA.

Note that during the second stage of glucose metabolism, whenever a carbon atom is removed, it is bound to two oxygen atoms, producing carbon dioxide, one of the major end products of cellular respiration.

Acetyl CoA to CO2

In the presence of oxygen, acetyl CoA delivers its acetyl group to a four-carbon molecule, oxaloacetate, to form citrate, a six-carbon molecule with three carboxyl groups this pathway will harvest the remainder of the extractable energy from what began as a glucose molecule. This single pathway is called by different names: the citric acid cycle (for the first intermediate formed—citric acid, or citrate—when acetate joins to the oxaloacetate), the TCA cycle (since citric acid or citrate and isocitrate are tricarboxylic acids), and the Krebs cycle , after Hans Krebs, who first identified the steps in the pathway in the 1930s in pigeon flight muscles.

Citric Acid Cycle

Like the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl CoA, the citric acid cycle takes place in the matrix of mitochondria. Almost all of the enzymes of the citric acid cycle are soluble, with the single exception of the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. Unlike glycolysis, the citric acid cycle is a closed loop: The last part of the pathway regenerates the compound used in the first step. The eight steps of the cycle are a series of redox, dehydration, hydration, and decarboxylation reactions that produce two carbon dioxide molecules, one GTP/ATP, and reduced forms of NADH and FADH2 (Figure 7.10). This is considered an aerobic pathway because the NADH and FADH2 produced must transfer their electrons to the next pathway in the system, which will use oxygen. If this transfer does not occur, the oxidation steps of the citric acid cycle also do not occur. Note that the citric acid cycle produces very little ATP directly and does not directly consume oxygen.

Steps in the Citric Acid Cycle

Step 1. Prior to the start of the first step, a transitional phase occurs during which pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl CoA. Then, the first step of the cycle begins: This is a condensation step, combining the two-carbon acetyl group with a four-carbon oxaloacetate molecule to form a six-carbon molecule of citrate. CoA is bound to a sulfhydryl group (-SH) and diffuses away to eventually combine with another acetyl group. This step is irreversible because it is highly exergonic. The rate of this reaction is controlled by negative feedback and the amount of ATP available. If ATP levels increase, the rate of this reaction decreases. If ATP is in short supply, the rate increases.

Step 2. In step two, citrate loses one water molecule and gains another as citrate is converted into its isomer, isocitrate.

Step 3. In step three, isocitrate is oxidized, producing a five-carbon molecule, α-ketoglutarate, together with a molecule of CO2 and two electrons, which reduce NAD + to NADH. This step is also regulated by negative feedback from ATP and NADH, and a positive effect of ADP.

Steps 3 and 4. Steps three and four are both oxidation and decarboxylation steps, which release electrons that reduce NAD + to NADH and release carboxyl groups that form CO2 molecules. α-Ketoglutarate is the product of step three, and a succinyl group is the product of step four. CoA binds the succinyl group to form succinyl CoA. The enzyme that catalyzes step four is regulated by feedback inhibition of ATP, succinyl CoA, and NADH.

Step 5. In step five, a phosphate group is substituted for coenzyme A, and a high-energy bond is formed. This energy is used in substrate-level phosphorylation (during the conversion of the succinyl group to succinate) to form either guanine triphosphate (GTP) or ATP. There are two forms of the enzyme, called isoenzymes, for this step, depending upon the type of animal tissue in which they are found. One form is found in tissues that use large amounts of ATP, such as heart and skeletal muscle. This form produces ATP. The second form of the enzyme is found in tissues that have a high number of anabolic pathways, such as liver tissues. This form produces GTP. GTP is energetically equivalent to ATP however, its use is more restricted. In particular, protein synthesis primarily uses GTP.

Step 6. Step six is a dehydration process that converts succinate into fumarate. Two hydrogen atoms are transferred to FAD, producing FADH2. The energy contained in the electrons of these atoms is insufficient to reduce NAD + but adequate to reduce FAD. Unlike NADH, this carrier remains attached to the enzyme and transfers the electrons to the electron transport chain directly. This process is made possible by the localization of the enzyme catalyzing this step inside the inner membrane of the mitochondrion.

Step 7. Water is added to fumarate during step seven, and malate is produced. The last step in the citric acid cycle regenerates oxaloacetate by oxidizing malate. Another molecule of NADH is produced in the process.


Acetyl CoA to CO2

In the presence of oxygen, acetyl CoA delivers its acetyl group to a four-carbon molecule, oxaloacetate, to form citrate, a six-carbon molecule with three carboxyl groups this pathway will harvest the remainder of the extractable energy from what began as a glucose molecule. This single pathway is called by different names: the citric acid cycle (for the first intermediate formed—citric acid, or citrate—when acetate joins to the oxaloacetate), the TCA cycle (since citric acid or citrate and isocitrate are tricarboxylic acids), and the Krebs cycle, after Hans Krebs, who first identified the steps in the pathway in the 1930s in pigeon flight muscles.


NADPH and Glutathione Redox Link TCA Cycle Activity to Endoplasmic Reticulum Homeostasis

Many metabolic diseases disrupt endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis, but little is known about how metabolic activity is communicated to the ER. Here, we show in hepatocytes and other metabolically active cells that decreasing the availability of substrate for the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle diminished NADPH production, elevated glutathione oxidation, led to altered oxidative maturation of ER client proteins, and attenuated ER stress. This attenuation was prevented when glutathione oxidation was disfavored. ER stress was also alleviated by inhibiting either TCA-dependent NADPH production or Glutathione Reductase. Conversely, stimulating TCA activity increased NADPH production, glutathione reduction, and ER stress. Validating these findings, deletion of the Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier-which is known to decrease TCA cycle activity and protect the liver from steatohepatitis-also diminished NADPH, elevated glutathione oxidation, and alleviated ER stress. Together, our results demonstrate a novel pathway by which mitochondrial metabolic activity is communicated to the ER through the relay of redox metabolites.

Keywords: biological sciences cell biology functional aspects of cell biology.

Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


7.3 Oxidation of Pyruvate and the Citric Acid Cycle

By the end of this section, you will be able to do the following:

  • Explain how a circular pathway, such as the citric acid cycle, fundamentally differs from a linear biochemical pathway, such as glycolysis
  • Describe how pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, is prepared for entry into the citric acid cycle

If oxygen is available, aerobic respiration will go forward. In eukaryotic cells, the pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolysis are transported into the mitochondria, which are the sites of cellular respiration. There, pyruvate is transformed into an acetyl group that will be picked up and activated by a carrier compound called coenzyme A (CoA). The resulting compound is called acetyl CoA . CoA is derived from vitamin B5, pantothenic acid. Acetyl CoA can be used in a variety of ways by the cell, but its major function is to deliver the acetyl group derived from pyruvate to the next stage of the pathway in glucose catabolism.

Breakdown of Pyruvate

In order for pyruvate, the product of glycolysis, to enter the next pathway, it must undergo several changes. The conversion is a three-step process (Figure 7.8).

Step 1. A carboxyl group is removed from pyruvate, releasing a molecule of carbon dioxide into the surrounding medium. This reaction creates a two-carbon hydroxyethyl group bound to the enzyme (pyruvate dehydrogenase). We should note that this is the first of the six carbons from the original glucose molecule to be removed. (This step proceeds twice because there are two pyruvate molecules produced at the end of glycolsis for every molecule of glucose metabolized anaerobically thus, two of the six carbons will have been removed at the end of both steps.)

Step 2. The hydroxyethyl group is oxidized to an acetyl group, and the electrons are picked up by NAD + , forming NADH. The high-energy electrons from NADH will be used later to generate ATP.

Step 3. The enzyme-bound acetyl group is transferred to CoA, producing a molecule of acetyl CoA.

Note that during the second stage of glucose metabolism, whenever a carbon atom is removed, it is bound to two oxygen atoms, producing carbon dioxide, one of the major end products of cellular respiration.

Acetyl CoA to CO2

In the presence of oxygen, acetyl CoA delivers its acetyl (2C) group to a four-carbon molecule, oxaloacetate, to form citrate, a six-carbon molecule with three carboxyl groups this pathway will harvest the remainder of the extractable energy from what began as a glucose molecule and release the remaining four CO2 molecules. This single pathway is called by different names: the citric acid cycle (for the first intermediate formed—citric acid, or citrate—when acetate joins to the oxaloacetate), the TCA cycle (because citric acid or citrate and isocitrate are tricarboxylic acids), and the Krebs cycle , after Hans Krebs, who first identified the steps in the pathway in the 1930s in pigeon flight muscles.

Citric Acid Cycle

Like the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl CoA, the citric acid cycle takes place in the matrix of mitochondria. Almost all of the enzymes of the citric acid cycle are soluble, with the single exception of the enzyme succinate dehydrogenase, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. Unlike glycolysis, the citric acid cycle is a closed loop: the last part of the pathway regenerates the compound used in the first step. The eight steps of the cycle are a series of redox, dehydration, hydration, and decarboxylation reactions that produce two carbon dioxide molecules, one GTP/ATP, and the reduced carriers NADH and FADH2 (Figure 7.9). This is considered an aerobic pathway because the NADH and FADH2 produced must transfer their electrons to the next pathway in the system, which will use oxygen. If this transfer does not occur, the oxidation steps of the citric acid cycle also do not occur. Note that the citric acid cycle produces very little ATP directly and does not directly consume oxygen.

Steps in the Citric Acid Cycle

Step 1. Prior to the first step, a transitional phase occurs during which pyruvic acid is converted to acetyl CoA. Then, the first step of the cycle begins: This condensation step combines the two-carbon acetyl group with a four-carbon oxaloacetate molecule to form a six-carbon molecule of citrate. CoA is bound to a sulfhydryl group (-SH) and diffuses away to eventually combine with another acetyl group. This step is irreversible because it is highly exergonic. The rate of this reaction is controlled by negative feedback and the amount of ATP available. If ATP levels increase, the rate of this reaction decreases. If ATP is in short supply, the rate increases.

Step 2. In step two, citrate loses one water molecule and gains another as citrate is converted into its isomer, isocitrate.

Step 3. In step three, isocitrate is oxidized, producing a five-carbon molecule, α-ketoglutarate, along with a molecule of CO2 and two electrons, which reduce NAD + to NADH. This step is also regulated by negative feedback from ATP and NADH and a positive effect of ADP.

Step 4. Steps three and four are both oxidation and decarboxylation steps, which as we have seen, release electrons that reduce NAD + to NADH and release carboxyl groups that form CO2 molecules. Alpha-ketoglutarate is the product of step three, and a succinyl group is the product of step four. CoA binds with the succinyl group to form succinyl CoA. The enzyme that catalyzes step four is regulated by feedback inhibition of ATP, succinyl CoA, and NADH.

Step 5. In step five, a carboxyl group is substituted for coenzyme A, and a high-energy bond is formed. This energy is used in substrate-level phosphorylation (during the conversion of the succinyl group to succinate) to form either guanine triphosphate (GTP) or ATP. There are two forms of the enzyme, called isoenzymes, for this step, depending upon the type of animal tissue in which they are found. One form is found in tissues that use large amounts of ATP, such as heart and skeletal muscle. This form produces ATP. The second form of the enzyme is found in tissues that have a high number of anabolic pathways, such as liver. This form produces GTP. GTP is energetically equivalent to ATP however, its use is more restricted. In particular, protein synthesis primarily uses GTP.

Step 6. Step six is a dehydration process that converts succinate into fumarate. Two hydrogen atoms are transferred to FAD, reducing it to FADH2. (Note: the energy contained in the electrons of these hydrogens is insufficient to reduce NAD + but adequate to reduce FAD.) Unlike NADH, this carrier remains attached to the enzyme and transfers the electrons to the electron transport chain directly. This process is made possible by the localization of the enzyme catalyzing this step inside the inner membrane of the mitochondrion.

Step 7. Water is added by hydrolysis to fumarate during step seven, and malate is produced. The last step in the citric acid cycle regenerates oxaloacetate by oxidizing malate. Another molecule of NADH is then produced in the process.

Link to Learning

View an animation of the citric acid cycle here.

Products of the Citric Acid Cycle

Two carbon atoms come into the citric acid cycle from each acetyl group, representing four out of the six carbons of one glucose molecule. Two carbon dioxide molecules are released on each turn of the cycle however, these do not necessarily contain the most recently added carbon atoms. The two acetyl carbon atoms will eventually be released on later turns of the cycle thus, all six carbon atoms from the original glucose molecule are eventually incorporated into carbon dioxide. Each turn of the cycle forms three NADH molecules and one FADH2 molecule. These carriers will connect with the last portion of aerobic respiration, the electron transport chain, to produce ATP molecules. One GTP or ATP is also made in each cycle. Several of the intermediate compounds in the citric acid cycle can be used in synthesizing nonessential amino acids therefore, the cycle is amphibolic (both catabolic and anabolic).

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