5-3-2. Overview of Metabolic Reactions
Metabolic processes are constantly taking place in the body.
Because catabolic reactions produce energy and anabolic reactions use energy, ideally, energy usage would balance the energy produced. If the net energy change is positive (catabolic reactions release more energy than the anabolic reactions use), then the body stores the excess energy by building fat molecules for long-term storage. On the other hand, if the net energy change is negative (catabolic reactions release less energy than anabolic reactions use), the body uses stored energy to compensate for the deficiency of energy released by catabolism.
Structurally, ATP molecules consist of an adenine, a ribose, and three phosphate groups (Figure 1). The chemical bond between the second and third phosphate groups, termed a high-energy bond, represents the greatest source of energy in a cell. It is the first bond that catabolic enzymes break when cells require energy to do work. The products of this reaction are a molecule of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a lone phosphate group (Pi). ATP, ADP, and Pi are constantly being cycled through reactions that build ATP and store energy, and reactions that break down ATP and release energy.
Structure of ATP Molecule
The energy from ATP drives all bodily functions, such as contracting muscles, maintaining the electrical potential of nerve cells, and absorbing food in the gastrointestinal tract. The metabolic reactions that produce ATP come from various sources (Figure 2).
Sources of ATP
Of the four major macromolecular groups (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids) that are processed by digestion, carbohydrates are considered the most common source of energy to fuel the body. They take the form of either complex carbohydrates, polysaccharides like starch and glycogen, or simple sugars (monosaccharides) like glucose and fructose. Sugar catabolism breaks polysaccharides down into their individual monosaccharides. Among the monosaccharides, glucose is the most common fuel for ATP production in cells, and as such, there are a number of endocrine control mechanisms to regulate glucose concentration in the bloodstream. Excess glucose is either stored as an energy reserve in the liver and skeletal muscles as the complex polymer glycogen, or it is converted into fat (triglyceride) in adipose cells (adipocytes).
Among the lipids (fats), triglycerides are most often used for energy via a metabolic process called β-oxidation. About one-half of excess fat is stored in adipocytes that accumulate in the subcutaneous tissue under the skin, whereas the rest is stored in adipocytes in other tissues and organs.
Proteins, which are polymers, can be broken down into their monomers, individual amino acids. Amino acids can be used as building blocks of new proteins or broken down further for the production of ATP. When one is chronically starving, this use of amino acids for energy production can lead to a wasting away of the body, as more and more proteins are broken down.
Nucleic acids are present in most of the foods you eat. During digestion, nucleic acids including DNA and various RNAs are broken down into their constituent nucleotides. These nucleotides are readily absorbed and transported throughout the body to be used by individual cells during nucleic acid metabolism.
In contrast to catabolic reactions,
Hormonal Regulation of Metabolism
Catabolic and anabolic hormones in the body help regulate metabolic processes.
Table 1. Catabolic Hormones
Table 2. Anabolic Hormones
Disorders of the…
Metabolic Processes: Cushing Syndrome and Addison’s Disease
As might be expected for a fundamental physiological process like metabolism, errors or malfunctions in metabolic processing lead to a pathophysiology or—if uncorrected—a disease state. Metabolic diseases are most commonly the result of malfunctioning proteins or enzymes that are critical to one or more metabolic pathways. Protein or enzyme malfunction can be the consequence of a genetic alteration or mutation. However, normally functioning proteins and enzymes can also have deleterious effects if their availability is not appropriately matched with metabolic need. For example, excessive production of the hormone cortisol (see Table 1) gives rise to Cushing syndrome. Clinically, Cushing syndrome is characterized by rapid weight gain, especially in the trunk and face region, depression, and anxiety. It is worth mentioning that tumors of the pituitary that produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which subsequently stimulates the adrenal cortex to release excessive cortisol, produce similar effects. This indirect mechanism of cortisol overproduction is referred to as Cushing disease.
Patients with Cushing syndrome can exhibit high blood glucose levels and are at an increased risk of becoming obese. They also show slow growth, accumulation of fat between the shoulders, weak muscles, bone pain (because cortisol causes proteins to be broken down to make glucose via gluconeogenesis), and fatigue. Other symptoms include excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis), capillary dilation, and thinning of the skin, which can lead to easy bruising. The treatments for Cushing syndrome are all focused on reducing excessive cortisol levels. Depending on the cause of the excess, treatment may be as simple as discontinuing the use of cortisol ointments. In cases of tumors, surgery is often used to remove the offending tumor. Where surgery is inappropriate, radiation therapy can be used to reduce the size of a tumor or ablate portions of the adrenal cortex. Finally, medications are available that can help to regulate the amounts of cortisol.
Insufficient cortisol production is equally problematic. Adrenal insufficiency, or Addison’s disease, is characterized by the reduced production of cortisol from the adrenal gland. It can result from malfunction of the adrenal glands—they do not produce enough cortisol—or it can be a consequence of decreased ACTH availability from the pituitary. Patients with Addison’s disease may have low blood pressure, paleness, extreme weakness, fatigue, slow or sluggish movements, lightheadedness, and salt cravings due to the loss of sodium and high blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia). Victims also may suffer from loss of appetite, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, mouth lesions, and patchy skin color. Diagnosis typically involves blood tests and imaging tests of the adrenal and pituitary glands. Treatment involves cortisol replacement therapy, which usually must be continued for life.
The chemical reactions underlying metabolism involve the transfer of electrons from one compound to another by processes catalyzed by enzymes. The electrons in these reactions commonly come from hydrogen atoms, which consist of an electron and a proton. A molecule gives up a hydrogen atom, in the form of a hydrogen ion (H+) and an electron, breaking the molecule into smaller parts. The loss of an electron, or
Oxidation-reduction reactions are catalyzed by enzymes that trigger the removal of hydrogen atoms. Coenzymes work with enzymes and accept hydrogen atoms. The two most common coenzymes of oxidation-reduction reactions are
Metabolism is the sum of all catabolic (break down) and anabolic (synthesis) reactions in the body. The metabolic rate measures the amount of energy used to maintain life. An organism must ingest a sufficient amount of food to maintain its metabolic rate if the organism is to stay alive for very long.
Catabolic reactions break down larger molecules, such as carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins from ingested food, into their constituent smaller parts. They also include the breakdown of ATP, which releases the energy needed for metabolic processes in all cells throughout the body.
Anabolic reactions, or biosynthetic reactions, synthesize larger molecules from smaller constituent parts, using ATP as the energy source for these reactions. Anabolic reactions build bone, muscle mass, and new proteins, fats, and nucleic acids. Oxidation-reduction reactions transfer electrons across molecules by oxidizing one molecule and reducing another, and collecting the released energy to convert Pi and ADP into ATP. Errors in metabolism alter the processing of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids, and can result in a number of disease states.
A monosaccharide is formed from a polysaccharide in what kind of reaction?
If anabolic reactions exceed catabolic reactions, the result will be ________.
When NAD becomes NADH, the coenzyme has been ________.
Anabolic reactions use energy by ________.
Critical Thinking Questions
Describe how metabolism can be altered.
An increase or decrease in lean muscle mass will result in an increase or decrease in metabolism.
Describe how Addison’s disease can be treated.
Addison’s disease is characterized by low cortisol levels. One way to treat the disease is by giving cortisol to the patient.
flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)
nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)