Factors that Affect Cellular Respiration

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  • 0:03 What Is Cellular Respiration?
  • 0:56 Temperature
  • 2:16 Glucose Concentration
  • 3:39 Oxygen Concentration
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll explore how different conditions affect the rate of cellular respiration in cells. We'll first review what cellular respiration is, and then explore how three factors affect it: temperature, glucose availability, and oxygen concentration.

What Is Cellular Respiration?

Right now, you're probably not running or jumping around, but you're still using energy. Everything we do, even something passive, like sleeping, requires energy. So where do we get that energy? If you're thinking food, you're on the right track, but the food has to go through a lot before we can extract the energy.

Your body digests the food and sends nutrients, particularly glucose, a simple sugar, through your bloodstream. Cells take up the glucose and break it apart, releasing energy in the process. This process is called cellular respiration, where cells break down glucose and capture energy as ATP, or adenosine triphosphate. Today, we're going to look at some factors that affect how quickly this process happens, and in turn how much energy your cells can make. We'll examine the effects of temperature, glucose concentration, and oxygen concentration.


What happens if you're too cold or too hot? You probably feel uncomfortable, and your body takes measures to try to keep your temperature even. If you're too cold, your body shivers to generate heat. If you're too hot, your body sweats to induce evaporative cooling. Every living thing has an optimal temperature that's needed to stay in balance. For humans and many types of cells, this is our body temperature, 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). All of our cells and the stuff inside them like to be at this temperature.

To perform cellular respiration, cells use tiny molecules called enzymes that speed up the chemical reactions needed to release energy. Enzymes, like the cells they exist in, have an optimal temperature at which they work best. If the temperature is too low, the enzymes slow down, just like molecules slow down when temperature decreases. If the enzymes used in cellular respiration are too cold, they don't work as fast, and thus cellular respiration won't go as fast either.

This might lead you to believe that hotter is better, but remember, there is optimal temperature for everything: not too hot and not too cold. When enzymes get too hot, they start to break apart, or denature. They lose their shape and can't do their job anymore. So, for cellular respiration to be at maximum efficiency, the temperature needs to be just right.

Glucose Concentration

Every chemical reaction has reactants, or what you start with, that go through a series of chemical changes to make products, or what you end up with. In cellular respiration, the reactants are glucose and oxygen, and the products are carbon dioxide and ATP. If you're missing any of the reactants, the reaction won't proceed as quickly. So cells need plenty of both glucose and oxygen to keep cellular respiration happening.

If there is too little glucose, the cell won't have anything to work with to make ATP. Think of it like an assembly line to make boxes. If you're out of cardboard, there's no way to complete the boxes and you'll have to wait for more cardboard to come in.

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