Compare & Contrast Fermentation & Cellular Respiration

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  • 0:03 Background on Cellular Energy
  • 0:49 What Is Cellular Respiration?
  • 2:47 What Is Fermentation?
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

Fermentation and cellular respiration are two methods a cell can use to make energy. This lesson will discuss how each process occurs and how they are similar and different from each other.

Background on Cellular Energy

Cells need energy to do work. This includes all the functions of living for a cell, like moving, making proteins, copying itself, etc... This energy comes from food, but the cell isn't able to directly use food to do work. Instead, the cell must convert food into a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is a form of energy that a cell can spend easily. This works just like money - you can't spend your paycheck at a store. You have to take it to a bank and cash it first. Cells have several different ways of making ATP. This lesson will discuss two ways a cell can produce ATP: cellular respiration and fermentation.

What Is Cellular Respiration?

Cellular respiration is a process that a cell can use to make ATP and is broken into 3 main steps: glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, and the electron transport chain.

Glyco refers to sugar, like glucose, and lysis means to break apart. Therefore, glycolysis is breaking apart sugar. Glucose is split in half during glycolysis, into a molecule called pyruvic acid. Breaking apart glucose allows the cell to make two molecules of ATP. This happens in the cytoplasm of the cell.

The Krebs cycle (also called the citric acid cycle and TCA cycle) happens in the mitochondria of the cell. The mitochondrion is a specialized structure of the cell, called an organelle, where most of the ATP is made. The citric acid cycle will take the products from glycolysis and finish breaking them down into carbon dioxide. The citric acid cycle also makes about two molecules of ATP for the cell.

The final step of cellular respiration is the electron transport chain. This also takes place in the mitochondrion. During this stage, electrons, small, negatively charged pieces of an atom, are passed along from one carrier to another. The final carrier during the electron transport chain is oxygen. When oxygen takes the electrons, water is made. Since the electron transport chain, and, therefore, cellular respiration, requires oxygen, it is called an aerobic process. The electron transport chain makes most of the cell's ATP - about 34 molecules.

Cellular respiration

The cell starts with one glucose molecule and some oxygen. It goes through the three steps above to make ATP. The byproducts of this process are carbon dioxide and water. This is just like breathing, which is also called respiration. Oxygen goes into the lungs, and carbon dioxide and water leave the lungs.

The overall equation for cellular respiration looks like this:

Cellular respiration

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