As pointed out at the beginning of this book, most of the energy for life on this planet originates from the sun. In the last chapter, the discussion was on the breakdown of complex molecules such as sugars and fats that hold great, but difficult to access, potential energy to produce molecules like ATP that can act as more readily accessible sources of cellular energy. This energy is then used to synthesize the more complex biomolecules necessary to build living cells. That synthesis, the formation of sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, is the focus of this chapter. Although technically the polymerization of nucleic acids and proteins are anabolic processes, they are not included in this chapter and are examined in detail separately.
- 6.1: Photosynthesis
- In one way or another, the energy of sugar and fat fuel molecules is derived from photosynthesis - the conversion of solar light energy into chemical bond energy, whether directly in photosynthetic plant cells and certain photosynthetic bacteria, or indirectly by the ingestion of those plants and bacteria. Photosynthesis is a simple idea: atmospheric carbon dioxide molecules are joined with water molecules to form sugars and oxygen.
- 6.2: The Calvin Cycle
- The dark (carbon fixation) reactions vary depending on the type of plant. The most common set of carbon fixation reactions is found in C3-type plants, which are so named because the major stable intermediate is the 3-carbon molecule, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. These reactions, best known as the Calvin cycle, fix CO₂ onto the pentose, ribulose 1,5-bis-phosphate (RuBP).
- 6.3: The Pentose Phosphate Pathway
- NADP/NADPH is used in reductive metabolic pathways, whereas NAD⁺/NADH is used in oxidative pathways. With such an important role in biosynthesis, it is no surprise that its production is part of a major metabolic pathway, the pentose phosphate pathway, also called the phosphogluconate pathway, and the hexose monophosphate shunt.
- 6.4: Gluconeogenesis
- The process of gluconeogenesis is in many ways the simple opposite of glycolysis, so it is not surprising that some of the enzymes used in glycolysis are the same as those used for gluconeogenesis. However, there are a few exceptions. These arose (and have probably evolved) for two major reasons - (1) the thermodynamics of the reaction are prohibitive, and (2) the need for independent control of the catabolic and anabolic processes.
- 6.5: Glycogen Synthesis
- Although glucose is the primary fuel for cells, it is not an efficient molecule for long-term storage in complex (i.e. greater than single-celled) organisms. Therefore, in both plants and animals, the glucose molecules are linked together to form polysaccharides known as glucans. In animals, the glucan formed is glycogen, which consists of glucose molecules linked by glycosidic bonds. The average size of a glycogen unit is a cytoplasmic granule containing over 100000 glucose molecules.
- 6.6: Fatty Acid Synthesis
- The fatty acid synthase system is comprised of seven enzymes linked together with an acyl carrier protein (ACP). As mentioned, this complex is found in the cytoplasm, so its substrates must be as well. The acetyl-CoA in the cytoplasm is primarily derived from the mitochondrial acetyl-CoA via a citrate-malate shuttle that couples deacetylation in the mitochondrion with acetylation in the cytosol.
- 6.7: Amino Acid Synthesis
- In humans, only half of the standard amino acids (Glu, Gln, Pro, Asp, Asn, Ala, Gly, Ser, Tyr, Cys) can be synthesized, and are thus classified the nonessential amino acids. Within this group, the first three, glutamate, glutamine, and proline, have a shared anabolic pathway. It begins with glutamate dehydrogenase, which adds ammonia to α-ketoglutarate in the presence of NADPH to form glutamate. This is a key reaction for all amino acid synthesis.
Thumbnail: Biochemical processes that break things down from larger to smaller are called catabolic processes. Catabolic processes are often oxidative in nature and energy releasing. Some, but not all of that energy is captured as ATP. Image used with permission (CC BY-SA-NC; Kevin Ahern & Indira Rajagopal).