Glycolysis literally means "splitting sugars." In glycolysis, glucose (a six carbon sugar) is split into two molecules of a three-carbon sugar. Glycolysis yields two molecules of ATP (free energy containing molecule), two molecules of pyruvic acid and two "high energy" electron carrying molecules of NADH. Glycolysis can occur with or without oxygen. In the presence of oxygen, glycolysis is the first stage of cellular respiration. Without oxygen, glycolysis allows cells to make small amounts of ATP. This process is called fermentation.
10 Steps of GlycolysisStep 1
The enzyme hexokinase phosphorylates (adds a phosphate group to) glucose in the cell's cytoplasm. In the process, a phosphate group from ATP is transferred to glucose producing glucose 6-phosphate.
Glucose (C6H12O6) + hexokinase + ATP → ADP + Glucose 6-phosphate (C6H11O6P1)
The enzyme phosphoglucoisomerase converts glucose 6-phosphate into its isomer fructose 6-phosphate. Isomers have the same molecular formula, but the atoms of each molecule are arranged differently.
Glucose 6-phosphate (C6H11O6P1) + Phosphoglucoisomerase → Fructose 6-phosphate (C6H11O6P1)
The enzyme phosphofructokinase uses another ATP molecule to transfer a phosphate group to fructose 6-phosphate to form fructose 1, 6-bisphosphate.
Fructose 6-phosphate (C6H11O6P1) + phosphofructokinase + ATP → ADP + Fructose 1, 6-bisphosphate (C6H10O6P2)
The enzyme aldolase splits fructose 1, 6-bisphosphate into two sugars that are isomers of each other. These two sugars are dihydroxyacetone phosphate and glyceraldehyde phosphate.
Fructose 1, 6-bisphosphate (C6H10O6P2) + aldolase → Dihydroxyacetone phosphate (C3H5O3P1) + Glyceraldehyde phosphate (C3H5O3P1)
The enzyme triose phosphate isomerase rapidly inter-converts the molecules dihydroxyacetone phosphate and glyceraldehyde phosphate. Glyceraldehyde phosphate is removed as soon as it is formed to be used in the next step of glycolysis.
Dihydroxyacetone phosphate (C3H5O3P1) → Glyceraldehyde phosphate (C3H5O3P1)
Net result for steps 4 and 5: Fructose 1, 6-bisphosphate (C6H10O6P2) ↔ 2 molecules of Glyceraldehyde phosphate (C3H5O3P1)
The enzyme triose phosphate dehydrogenase serves two functions in this step. First the enzyme transfers a hydrogen (H-) from glyceraldehyde phosphate to the oxidizing agent nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) to form NADH. Next triose phosphate dehydrogenase adds a phosphate (P) from the cytosol to the oxidized glyceraldehyde phosphate to form 1, 3-bisphosphoglycerate. This occurs for both molecules of glyceraldehyde phosphate produced in step 5.
A. Triose phosphate dehydrogenase + 2 H- + 2 NAD+ → 2 NADH + 2 H+
B. Triose phosphate dehydrogenase + 2 P + 2 glyceraldehyde phosphate (C3H5O3P1) → 2 molecules of 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate (C3H4O4P2)
The enzyme phosphoglycerokinase transfers a P from 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate to a molecule of ADP to form ATP. This happens for each molecule of 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate. The process yields two 3-phosphoglycerate molecules and two ATP molecules.
2 molecules of 1,3-bisphoshoglycerate (C3H4O4P2) + phosphoglycerokinase + 2 ADP → 2 molecules of 3-phosphoglycerate (C3H5O4P1) + 2 ATP
The enzyme phosphoglyceromutase relocates the P from 3-phosphoglycerate from the third carbon to the second carbon to form 2-phosphoglycerate.
2 molecules of 3-Phosphoglycerate (C3H5O4P1) + phosphoglyceromutase → 2 molecules of 2-Phosphoglycerate (C3H5O4P1)
The enzyme enolase removes a molecule of water from 2-phosphoglycerate to form phosphoenolpyruvic acid (PEP). This happens for each molecule of 2-phosphoglycerate.
2 molecules of 2-Phosphoglycerate (C3H5O4P1) + enolase → 2 molecules of phosphoenolpyruvic acid (PEP) (C3H3O3P1)
The enzyme pyruvate kinase transfers a P from PEP to ADP to form pyruvic acid and ATP. This happens for each molecule of PEP. This reaction yields 2 molecules of pyruvic acid and 2 ATP molecules.
2 molecules of PEP (C3H3O3P1) + pyruvate kinase + 2 ADP → 2 molecules of pyruvic acid (C3H4O3) + 2 ATP
SummaryIn summary, a single glucose molecule in glycolysis produces a total of 2 molecules of pyruvic acid, 2 molecules of ATP, 2 molecules of NADH and 2 molecules of water.
Although 2 ATP molecules are used in steps 1-3, 2 ATP molecules are generated in step 7 and 2 more in step 10. This gives a total of 4 ATP molecules produced. If you subtract the 2 ATP molecules used in steps 1-3 from the 4 generated at the end of step 10, you end up with a net total of 2 ATP molecules produced. For a detailed view of the 10 steps, see: Details of the 10 Steps of Glycolysis.