What Is ADP in Biology?

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  • 0:00 Energy of Life
  • 1:07 Structure
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gretchen Baumle
In living things, there are certain molecules that act like batteries, giving us the power to perform everyday functions and stay alive. In this lesson, learn about ADP, an important part of the 'rechargeable' battery in your body and how it works.

Energy of Life

Did you know that you're burning through billions of energy molecules at this very moment just by watching the beginning of this video? When it comes to biology, the energy superstar has got to be ATP, short for adenosine triphosphate, with a core component of adenosine diphosphate, also known as ADP.

This little molecule, ATP, is like a compressed spring, just waiting to spring into action and do work for our cells and body in general. Work means things like contracting a muscle so you can breathe or blink your eyes, move sodium into or out of a cell to regulate your water balance, digest the food that you eat each day. . . you get the idea.

Though you may not even realize you're doing these things, these simple actions require huge amounts of energy and most of that is in the form of ATP, which is a renewable resource in our bodies. Because this energy resource can be replenished, our bodies can keep up with the extreme demand for it every second of every day.


Going back to the compressed spring analogy, the name of the molecule, adenosine triphosphate, indicates that there are three phosphate groups stuck side by side in every ATP molecule. Sounds cozy, right? Wrong. Phosphate groups in this molecule carry a negative charge and, like '80s pop singer Paula Abdul said, only opposites attract. What that means is that these three phosphates don't like hanging out beside one another, and the one on the end, is just waiting for its chance to break free from the group.

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