Adenosine Triphosphate

Adenosine Triphosphate

An overview of ATP

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is a molecule found in all living organisms and is an energy carrying molecule. The molecule captures chemical energy derived from a breakdown of food molecules. It then releases the energy to fuel other essential cellular processes. Cells need chemical energy for three major purposes including

  • Deriving metabolic reactions that cannot occur automatically
  • Transport essential substances across membranes and
  • To carry out chemical work such as moving muscles

It is essential to note that a storage molecule for chemical energy is usually the job of carbohydrates such as fats and glycogens. When the cell needs energy, it is converted from storage molecules into ATP. The ATP will then serve as a shuttle delivering energy into other places within the cell where activities that need a lot of energy take place.

Adenosine Triphosphate structure

ATP is a nucleotide that contains three main structures including adenine, base, the sugar and ribose. It is also made up of a chain of a group of three phosphates bound to ribose. The tail of the molecule is the actual energy or power source that the cell taps.

Available energy in the molecule is stored in bonds between phosphates. It is further released when broken into energy form and it occurs with the inclusion of water molecule. This takes place through a process popularly known as hydrolysis. The outer phosphate is however removed from ATP to help produce or yield energy. When such occurs, the molecule is converted to a nucleotide form with only two phosphates, adenosine diphosphate.

ATP has ability to power a wide range of cellular processes by transferring a phosphate group to another molecule. This occurs through a process known as phosphorylation. This kind of energy transfer is carried out by active and special enzymes that couple the release of energy from ATP to the cellular activities that need energy.

Even though cells will continuously break down ATP to obtain energy, the molecule is constantly being synthesized from ADP and phosphate. This occurs through a cellular respiration process. Many ATP in cells is also produced by the ATP synthase enzyme and it converts ADP and phosphate into ATP.

ATP synthase is located in the mitochondria in plants and it functions well because of the cellular structures in the membrane. In plant cells, the enzyme is found in chloroplasts. The major role of ATP in energy is to carry out metabolism as it was discovered by Herman Kalckar and Fritz Albert Lipmann in 1941.

 How Adenosine Triphosphate works and the Phosphorus cycle

ATP works under enzyme instructions by losing the endmost phosphate group. This reaction leads to release of energy which an organism can use to build proteins and contact muscles among other activities. The main product is adenosine diphosphate and the phosphate group will end up as orthophosphate (HPO4). It is attached to another molecule for instance alcohol.  Therefore, more energy can be derived by removing a second phosphate group to produce adenosine monophosphate (AMP).

When an organism is resting, energy is not needed immediately. As a result, a reverse reaction occurs. The phosphate group is therefore reattached to the molecule using the energy that is derived from sunlight or food. Therefore, the ATP molecule will act as a chemical energy storage battery when it is not needed. However, the energy will be instantly released when the organism needs it.

When it comes to the phosphorus cycle, it is essential to note that the nature of ATP is universal. This explains why phosphates are very important ingredients in the diet of all living things. Modern day fertilizers contain different phosphorus compounds extracted from bones of animals. The compounds are further utilized and used by plants to make ATP. In the end, humans eat plants, metabolize their phosphorus compounds and produce own ATP. When humans die, the phosphorus naturally goes back to the ecosystem and the phosphorus Adenosine Triphosphate cycle begins again.

The cycle is very important because all living things including plants and animals need a continuous supply of energy to function normally. The energy is used in various internal activities that help to keep living things alive.



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