Glycolysis, (Embden-Meyerhof pathway) is a near universal metabolic pathway that converts glucose into pyruvate. The free energy released in this process is used to form the high energy compounds, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and NADH (reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
Glycolysis is a sequence of ten reactions involving ten intermediate compounds. In general, glycolysis can be seen as consisting of 2 separate phases. The first is the chemical priming phase requiring energy in the form of ATP, and the second is considered the energy-yielding phase. In the first phase, 2 equivalents of ATP are used to convert glucose to fructose 1,6-bisphosphate (F1,6BP). In the second phase F1,6BP is degraded to pyruvate, with the production of 4 equivalents of ATP and 2 equivalents of NADH. The ATP-dependent phosphorylation of glucose to form glucose 6-phosphate (G6P)is the first reaction of glycolysis, and is catalyzed by tissue-specific isoenzymes known as hexokinases. The second reaction of glycolysis is an isomerization, in which G6P is converted to fructose 6-phosphate (F6P). The enzyme catalyzing this reaction is phosphohexose isomerase (also known as phosphoglucose isomerase). The next reaction of glycolysis involves the utilization of a second ATP to convert F6P to fructose 1,6-bisphosphate (F1,6BP). This reaction is catalyzed by 6-phosphofructo-1-kinase, better known as phosphofructokinase-1 or PFK-1. The fourth reaction involves Aldolase catalyzing the hydrolysis of F1,6BP into two 3-carbon products: dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (G3P). The aldolase reaction proceeds readily in the reverse direction, being utilized for both glycolysis and gluconeogenesis. The two products of the aldolase reaction equilibrate readily in a reaction catalyzed by triose phosphate isomerase. Succeeding reactions of glycolysis utilize G3P as a substrate; thus, the aldolase reaction is pulled in the glycolytic direction by mass action principals. The second phase of glucose catabolism features the energy-yielding glycolytic reactions that produce ATP and NADH. In the first of these reactions, glyceraldehyde-3-P dehydrogenase (G3PDH) catalyzes the NAD+-dependent oxidation of G3P to 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate (1,3BPG) and NADH. The high-energy phosphate of 1,3-BPG is used to form ATP and 3-phosphoglycerate (3PG) by the enzyme phosphoglycerate kinase. Associated with the phosphoglycerate kinase pathway is an important reaction of erythrocytes, the formation of 2,3-bisphosphoglycerate, 2,3BPG by the enzyme bisphosphoglycerate mutase. 2,3BPG is an important regulator of hemoglobin’s affinity for oxygen. The remaining reactions of glycolysis are aimed at converting the relatively low energy phosphoacyl-ester of 3PG to a high-energy form and harvesting the phosphate as ATP. The 3PG is first converted to 2PG by phosphoglycerate mutase and the 2PG conversion to phosphoenoylpyruvate (PEP) is catalyzed by enolase. The final reaction of aerobic glycolysis is catalyzed by the highly regulated enzyme pyruvate kinase (PK). In this strongly exergonic reaction, the high-energy phosphate of PEP is conserved as ATP. The loss of phosphate by PEP leads to the production of pyruvate in an unstable enol form, which spontaneously tautomerizes to the more stable, keto form of pyruvate. Under aerobic conditions, pyruvate in most cells is further metabolized via the TCA cycle. Under anaerobic conditions and in erythrocytes under aerobic conditions, pyruvate is converted to lactate by the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and the lactate is transported out of the cell into the circulation.

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  1. Lehninger, A.L. (2005) Lehninger principles of biochemistry (4 th ed.). New York: W.H Freeman.
  2. Salway, J.G. (2004) Metabolism at a glance (3 rd ed.). Alden, Mass. : Blackwell Pub.