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Mitochondria: A Deeper Dive (3/3)

Mitochondria: A Deeper Dive (3/3)

Today, we're wrapping up our Mitochondria Trilogy. Missed the first two editions? Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Vitamins and Minerals in Metabolic Reactions

One topic worth mentioning is the use of vitamins and minerals in metabolic processes. Many vitamins and minerals serve as either a cofactor or coenzyme to expedite the reaction process by lowering activation energy costs of processes, or by activating certain enzymes via modification. For example, we spoke quite a bit about acetyl-CoA. CoA literally means Coenzyme A, but is not obtained in this particular form as it is derived from pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5). Another would be thiamine (Vitamin B1), an essential cofactor in roughly three metabolic processes. Magnesium, an essential mineral, is involved in nearly all reactions associated with ATP as well as the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and other proteins. Without these essential vitamins and minerals within our system, our metabolic processes would suffer greatly due to deficiency and become more susceptible to disease.

A healthy, balanced diet can help you maintain your health. Any deficiencies in essential nutrients will result in visible fatigue and can develop into serious underlying issues. Any inadequacies can be improved upon by mixing up your diet a bit, thus obtaining different nutrients which could produce noticeable changes. Supplementing your lifestyle with supplements is also a good alternative, providing a wide range of vitamins and minerals that can improve overall health.

If you feel like you didn't fully absorb what was said about cellular metabolism, here's a brief summary:

Cellular respiration: (Overview/Summary)

Animal metabolism as a whole first begins with the breakdown of polysaccharides, usually in the form of dietary starch, glycogen, or noncarbohydrate precursors resulting from gluconeogenesis. The resulting glucose is then circulated throughout the circulatory blood system, where glucose is actively transported to regions of need. Individual cells will intake glucose molecules into the interior of the cell into the cytosol, where the first breakdown process will begin - glycolysis.

Glycolysis is one of the earliest discovered metabolic reactions and has been traced backwards to be one of the most prominent and ancient bio chemical processes. Glycolysis occurs in the cytosol (outside the mitochondria) and breaks down a single glucose molecule into two smaller pyruvate derivatives with the help of enzymes and cofactors, while producing small amounts of ATP. The pyruvate molecules are then chemically modified into biomolecule Acetyl-CoA.

Acetyl-CoA enters the mitochondria through transport proteins and initiates the TCA cycle (tricarboxylic/citric acid/krebs). Acetyl-CoA is then utilized into “re-charging” electron carrier molecules NAD+ and FAD into NADH and FADH2, via oxidation-reduction reactions. By the end of the 8-step cycle, acetyl-CoA is completely consumed and indirectly release as CO2 molecules. Similar to the glycolysis process, however, the TCA cycle produces small amounts of ATP directly but leaves us with electron carrier molecules.

The electron carrier molecules NADH and FADH2 are then utilized in the electron transport chain (ETC) that occur along the inner mitochondrial membrane. The electron carriers pass on their electrons to various protein complexes embedded into the membrane. These protein complexes (I, II, III, IV) utilize these electrons as a source of energy to pump H+ protons across the membrane. The transferred electrons are passed along the protein complexes and finally end up at O2 molecules, which are subsequently converted to H2O. All of the protons that have transitioned to matrix side of the membrane are used to create a proton gradient. ATP synthase, probably the most important protein involved in the entire process, funnels these protons through an internal passage through the membrane onto the other side where they first started. These passing protons actually power a motor within ATP synthase which powers the ADP + Pi -> ATP reaction to produce copious amounts of ATP.

*Sigh*

And so concludes our final Mitochondria piece. Want to dive even deeper? Sign up for our 14 Day Nootropics Course: