cellular respiration n.
The series of metabolic processes by which living cells produce energy through the oxidation of organic substances.
The process of cell catabolism in which cells turn food into usable energy in the form of ATP. In this process glucose is broken down in the presence of molecular oxygen into six molecules of carbon dioxide, and much of the energy released is preserved by turning ADP and free phosphate into ATP. Cellular respiration occurs as a series of chemical reactions catalyzed by enzymes, the first of which is glycolysis, a series of anaerobic reactions in which glucose (a 6-carbon molecule) is split into two molecules of lactate (a 3-carbon molecule), producing a net gain of two ATP molecules. In a series of aerobic reactions, lactate is converted to pyruvate, which enters the mitochondrion and combines with oxygen to form an acetyl group, releasing carbon dioxide. The acetyl group (CH3CO) is then combined with coenzyme A as acetyl coenzyme A, and enters the Krebs cycle. During this series of reactions, each acetyl group is oxidized to form two molecules of carbon dioxide, and the energy released is transferred to four electron carrier molecules. The electron carrier molecules then release their energy in a process that results in the pumping of protons (hydrogen ions) out across the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. The potential energy of the protons generated by one acetyl group is later released when they recross the membrane and are used to form three molecules of ATP from ADP and phosphate in the process of oxidative phosphorylation. The pyruvate from one molecule of glucose drives two turns of the Krebs cycle. Thus, during cellular respiration one molecule of glucose, as well as oxygen, ADP, and free phosphate are catabolized to yield six molecules of carbon dioxide and an increase in usable energy in the form of eight molecules of ATP.