Pyruvate Oxidation: Products & Overview

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  • 0:00 Overview of Aerobic…
  • 1:41 The Oxidation of Pyruvate
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Gilley
During one phase of aerobic respiration, pyruvate is oxidized in order to release energy. This lesson will discuss the various processes required to break down pyruvate and the resulting products that are formed.

Overview of Aerobic Respiration

Our cells constantly require energy to perform daily basic functions. Without energy, our cells could not keep us alive. So how do our cells get the energy we need to survive? The answer is aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration is a process used by humans and other organisms to extract energy from the sugars that we eat. This process is actually similar to how a car uses gasoline. Your car requires a fuel, like gasoline, to function. As your engine turns, the gasoline undergoes combustion, resulting in the release of energy. That energy is then used to power the car. In your cells, the sugar you eat serves as fuel for the cell. Aerobic respiration is the process of sugar combustion and results in the release of energy, which is used to power the cell.

Aerobic respiration creates energy by oxidizing sugar molecules. During an oxidation reaction, electrons are removed, causing the molecule to be broken down. The first stage of aerobic respiration begins by oxidizing sugar into two molecules of pyruvate. Pyruvate is the product derived from the initial breakdown of sugar. During the second stage, pyruvate will continue to be oxidized until it has become carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is the end product of the oxidation of sugar. Finally, your cells collect all the electrons that were removed and they'll be used to make lots and lots of energy for the cell. It turns out that one sugar molecule can produce up to 38 molecules of ATP. That's just like getting a full tank of gas for just $1.00!

The Oxidation of Pyruvate

The oxidation of pyruvate is the second stage of aerobic respiration and is the focus of this lesson. This process, which occurs is two separate stages, continuously removes electrons from pyruvate until only carbon dioxide remains. So essentially your cells are converting pyruvate into carbon dioxide using two different oxidation steps.

During the first oxidation, one pyruvate will be converted into a molecule of acetyl CoA. Acetyl CoA is a product of sugar broken down which will be used in the second oxidation step. Acetyl CoA is formed in three easy steps. First, a molecule of CO2 is removed from pyruvate. Then, some electrons are extracted and collected. Finally, a molecule of coenzyme A (CoA) is attached, resulting in the formation of acetyl CoA. At this point, your cell is half way through the breakdown of pyruvate and has produced CO2, some electrons, and acetyl CoA.

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