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Biology LibreTexts

2.8: Energy Efficiency

Cells are not 100% efficient in energy use;  nothing that we know of is. Consequently, cells do not get as much energy out of catabolic processes as they put into anabolic processes. A good example is the synthesis and breakdown of glucose, something liver cells are frequently doing. The complete conversion of glucose to pyruvate in glycolysis (catabolism) yields two pyruvates plus 2 NADH plus 2 ATPs.

Conversely, the complete conversion of two pyruvates into glucose by gluconeogenesis (anabolism) requires 4 ATPs, 2 NADH, and 2 GTPs. Since the energy of GTP is essentially equal to that of ATP, gluconeogenesis requires a net of 4 ATPs more than glycolysis yields. This difference must be made up in order for the organism to balance everything. It is for this reason that we eat. In addition, the inefficiency of our capture of energy in reactions results in the production of heat and helps to keep us warm.

Figure 2.8.1: Glycolysis and gluconeogenesis.