Pyruvate in Cellular Respiration

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Role of Glucose in Cellular Respiration

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Definition of Cellular…
  • 1:16 How Pyruvate Is Made
  • 2:17 The Role of Pyruvate
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dominic Corsini
What form of energy do cells use? How do they make this energy? What does the food you eat have to do with any of this? This lesson addresses these questions by examining the role of pyruvate in cellular respiration.

Definition of Cellular Respiration

When most people think about respiration, they think of breathing. Hopefully you're breathing right now. But that isn't the only form of respiration at work inside your body. There is another form of respiration that you see every day, even when holding your breath. This is called cellular respiration and it's absolutely vital for your survival.

Cellular respiration is the process your cells use to produce usable energy in the form of ATP. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short, is a high-energy molecule cells use as their energy source. Think of it like the energy currency of cells. If cells want to do something that requires energy, it will cost them some ATP. And cellular respiration is how ATP is made.

Now, here's an overview of this process. Cellular respiration is a three-phase procedure. The phases are called glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, and the electron transport chain. Within these phases is an important molecule called pyruvate, sometimes referred to as pyruvic acid. Pyruvate is the molecule that feeds the Krebs cycle, our second step in cellular respiration.

How Pyruvate Is Made

To understand how pyruvate is made, we need to start from the beginning. The cellular respiration process begins with the food you eat. More specifically, it begins with the starchy food you eat. That's because starch breaks down into a sugar called glucose. This glucose is needed to kick start glycolysis. Once underway, glycolysis will produce chemicals needed by the electron transport chain, but it will also produce pyruvate for use in the Krebs cycle. Here's how that works.

The glucose (sugar) in food is made from six carbon atoms. These six atoms are broken apart during glycolysis and converted into two smaller molecules, each made from three carbon atoms. Now, these three carbon molecules go through a series of chemical changes where atoms are added, removed, and shifted from place to place. However, the molecules retain their three-carbon structure. Having been changed, these newly formed molecules are now called pyruvate, or pyruvic acid.

The Role of Pyruvate

Remember the phases of cellular respiration:

  1. Glycolysis
  2. The Krebs Cycle
  3. The electron transport chain

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account