Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (2022)

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (1)

You can’t just snap your fingers and turn your food into energy. The production of cellular energy from your food is so efficient and effective, though, it might seem that easy. But one of the most significant molecules in your body is actually working hard at producing cellular energy. And you may never have heard of this crucial molecule before—ATP or adenosine triphosphate.

So, let’s give awesome ATP some much-deserved spotlight.

After all, ATP is the reason the energy from your food can be used to complete all the tasks performed by your cells. This energy carrier is in every cell of your body—muscles, skin, brain, you name it. Basically, ATP is what makes cellular energy happen.

But cellular energy production is a complex process. Luckily, you don’t need to be a scientist to grasp this tricky concept. After you go through the 10 questions below, you’ll have simple answers to build your base of knowledge. Start learning about the basics and move all the way to the nitty-gritty of the chemistry involved.

1. What is ATP?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (2)

ATP is the most abundant energy-carrying molecule in your body. It harnesses the chemical energy found in food molecules and then releases it to fuel the work in the cell.

Think of ATP as a common currency for the cells in your body. The food you eat is digested into small subunits of macronutrients. The carbohydrates in your diet are all converted to a simple sugar called glucose.

This simple sugar has the power to “buy” a lot of cellular energy. But your cells don’t accept glucose as a method of payment. You need to convert your glucose into currency that will work in the cell.

ATP is that accepted currency. Through an intricate chain of chemical reactions—your body’s currency exchange—glucose is converted into ATP. This conversion process is called cellular respiration or metabolism.

Like the exchange of money from one currency to the next, the energy from glucose takes the form of temporary chemical compounds at the end of each reaction. Glucose is changed into several other compounds before its energy settles in ATP. Don’t worry. You’ll see some of these compounds in the energy exchange chain spelled out in question 4.

2. What Kind of Molecule is ATP?

The initials ATP stand for adenosine tri-phosphate. This long name translates to a nucleic acid (protein) attached to a sugar and phosphate chain. Phosphate chains are groups of phosphorous and oxygen atoms linked together. One cool fact: ATP closely resembles the proteins found in genetic material.

(Video) Cellular Respiration (UPDATED)

3. How Does ATP Carry Energy?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (3)

The phosphate chain is the energy-carrying portion of the ATP molecule. There is major chemistry going on along the chain.

To understand what’s happening, let’s go over some simple rules of chemistry. When bonds are formed between atoms and molecules, energy is stored. This energy is held in the chemical bond until it is forced to break.

When chemical bonds break, energy is released. And in the case of ATP, it’s a lot of energy. This energy helps the cell perform work. Any excess energy leaves the body as heat.

The chemical bonds in ATP are so strong because the atoms that form the phosphate chain are especially negatively charged. This means they’re always on the lookout for a positively charged molecule to pair off with. By leaving the phosphate chain, these molecules can balance their negative charge—creating the longed-for balance.

So, a lot of energy is needed to keep the negatively charged phosphate chain intact. All that pull comes in handy. Because when the chain is broken by a positively charged force, that big store of energy is released inside the cell.

4. Where Does ATP Come From?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (4)

In order for ATP to power your cells, glucose has to begin the energy currency exchange.

The first chemical reaction to create ATP is called glycolysis. Its name literally means “to break apart glucose” (glyco = glucose, lysis = break). Glycolysis relies on proteins to split glucose molecules and create a smaller compound called pyruvate.

Think back to the temporary forms energy currency takes in between glucose and ATP.

Pyruvate is the next major compound in energy-exchange reactions. Once pyruvate is produced, it travels to a specialized area in the cell that deals solely in energy production. This place is called the mitochondria.

In the mitochondria, pyruvate is converted into carbon dioxide and a compound called acetyl Coenzyme A (or CoA, for short). The carbon dioxide produced at this step is released when you exhale. Acetyl CoA moves forward in the process to create ATP.

The next chemical reaction uses acetyl CoA to create additional carbon dioxide and an energy-carrying molecule called Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH). NADH is a special compound. Remember how opposites attract and negatively charged compounds want to balance their energy with a positive charge? NADH is one of those negatively charged molecules looking for a positive partner.

(Video) ATP & Respiration: Crash Course Biology #7

NADH plays a role in the final step in the creation of ATP. Before it becomes adenosine tri-phosphate, it starts out as adenosine di-phosphate (ADP). NADH helps ADP create power-packed ATP.

The NADH’s negative charge turns on a special protein that creates ATP. This protein acts like a very powerful magnet that brings ADP and a single phosphate molecule together—forming ATP. Think back to how strong this chemical bond is. Now that’s a lot of power ready to be unleashed!

It might also help to think about ATP as a rechargeable battery. It goes through cycles of high energy and low energy. ATP is like a battery with full power, and the energy gets drained when its bonds are broken. To charge the battery up again, you need to make a new bond.

Since NADH powers the protein that brings ADP and phosphate together, it’s like a gear that keeps the energy cycle churning. NADH constantly recharges the ATP battery so it’s ready to be used again.

These bonds are constantly being made and broken. Energy from food is converted into energy stored in ATP. And that’s how your cells have the power to continue working to maintain your health.

5. Where Does Cellular Energy Production Take Place?

The creation of ATP takes place throughout the body’s cells. The process begins when glucose is digested in the intestines. Next, it’s taken up by cells and converted to pyruvate. It then travels to the cells’ mitochondria. That’s ultimately where ATP is produced.

6. What are Mitochondria?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (5)

Known as the powerhouse of the cell, the mitochondria are where ATP is formed from ADP and phosphate. Special proteins—the ones energized by NADH—are embedded in the membrane of mitochondria. They are continuously producing ATP to power the cell.

7. How Much ATP Does a Cell Produce?

The number of cells in your body is staggering—37.2 trillion, to be specific. And the amount of ATP produced by a typical cell is just as mindboggling.

At any point in time, approximately one billion molecules of ATP are available in a single cell. Your cells also use up all that ATP at an alarming rate. A cell can completely turnover its store of ATP in just two minutes!

8. Do All Cells Use ATP?

Not only do all your cells use it, all living organisms use ATP as their energy currency. ATP is found in the cytoplasm of all cells. The cytoplasm is the space at the center of the cell. It is filled with a substance called cytosol.

All the different pieces of cellular equipment (organelles) are housed in the cytoplasm, including the mitochondria. After it’s produced, ATP leaves the mitochondria to travel throughout the cell to perform its assigned tasks.

9. Are All Foods Converted Into ATP?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (6)

(Video) What is ATP?

Eventually fats, protein, and carbohydrates can all become cellular energy. The process is not the same for each macronutrient, but the end results does yield power for the cell. It just isn’t as straightforward and direct for fats and proteins to turn into ATP.

Sugars and simple carbohydrates are easy. Chemical bonds are pulled apart to reduce all sugars from your diet into glucose. And you already know that glucose kicks off ATP production.

Fats and proteins need to be broken down into simpler subunits before they can participate in cellular energy production. Fats are chemically converted into fatty acids and glycerol. Proteins are slimmed down to amino acids—their building blocks.

Amino acids, fatty acids, and glycerol join up with glucose on the road to ATP production. They help supply the cell with other intermediate chemical compounds along the way.

There are nutrients you eat that don’t get digested or used for ATP production, like fiber. Your body isn’t equipped with the right enzymes to fully break down fiber. So, that material passes through the digestive system and leaves the body as waste.

But don’t worry. Even without digesting fiber, your body is brimming with energy as the food you eat is converted to ATP.

10. What Nutrients Help Support Cellular Energy Production?

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (7)

Since maintaining cellular energy is such a critical part of health, many nutrients play a supporting role. Some are even categorized as essential nutrients. And many of these nutrients will be familiar parts of your healthy diet.

Here’s the major nutrients you should seek out to help support healthy cellular energy production:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
  • Vitamin C (participates in its antioxidant activities)
  • Vitamin E (participates in its antioxidant activities)
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Alpha lipoic acid
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus

The Power of ATP

Understanding ATP—10 Cellular Energy Questions Answered (8)

Without the pathway to ATP production, your body would be full of energy it couldn’t use. That’s not good for your body or your to-do list. ATP is the universal energy carrier and currency. It stores all the power each cell needs to perform its tasks. And like a rechargeable battery, once ATP is produced, it can be used over and over again.

Next time you eat, think about all the work your body does to utilize that energy. Then get on your feet and use this cellular energy to exercise or conquer your day. And if you fuel up with healthy foods, you don’t have to worry about running out of ATP halfway through your busy day.

About the Author

Sydney Sprouseis a freelance science writer based out of Forest Grove, Oregon. She holds a bachelor of science in human biology from Utah State University, where she worked as an undergraduate researcher and writing fellow. Sydney is a lifelong student of science and makes it her goal to translate current scientific research as effectively as possible. She writes with particular interest in human biology, health, and nutrition.

(Video) Respiration site & ATP | Life processes | Biology | Khan Academy










(Video) Cellular Respiration


What is ATP Class 10 short answer? ›

ATP – Adenosine triphosphate is called the energy currency of the cell. It is the organic compound composed of the phosphate groups, adenine, and the sugar ribose. These molecules provide energy for various biochemical processes in the body. Therefore, it is called “Energy Currency of the Cell”.

How does ATP provide energy to your body? ›

ATP is able to power cellular processes by transferring a phosphate group to another molecule (a process called phosphorylation). This transfer is carried out by special enzymes that couple the release of energy from ATP to cellular activities that require energy.

How much ATP does a cell produce? ›

So the average cell in the human body produces ∼107–108 ATP/s, roughly consistent with the estimate of the energetic cost of protein turnover and several orders of magnitude more energy than we estimated that keratocyte motility requires.

What organelle produces ATP? ›


Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell's biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

How ATP is produced? ›

ATP production can occur in the presence of oxygen from cellular respiration, beta-oxidation, ketosis, lipid, and protein catabolism, as well as under anaerobic conditions. Ketosis is a reaction that yields ATP through the catabolism of ketone bodies.

Does ATP leave the cell? ›

Although there is an abundance of evidence which indicates that ATP is released as well as taken up by cells, the concept that ATP cannot cross the cell membrane has tended to prevail. This article reviews the evidence for the release as well as uptake of ATP by cells.

How much ATP does a cell need? ›

Approximately 100 to 150 mol/L of ATP are required daily, which means that each ATP molecule is recycled some 1000 to 1500 times per day.

Do all cells use ATP? ›

Yes, all cell uses ATP molecules. They are called the energy currency of the cell. ATP molecules are the organic compound composed of the phosphate groups, adenine, and sugar ribose. These molecules also provide energy for both exergonic and endergonic processes.

Where is ATP stored? ›

The common feature is that ATP can be stored in large dense core vesicles together with neurotransmitters.

Where is energy stored in ATP? ›

Adenosine Triphosphate

Energy is stored in the bonds joining the phosphate groups (yellow). The covalent bond holding the third phosphate group carries about 7,300 calories of energy.

Why do cells need ATP? ›

ATP plays a critical role in the transport of macromolecules such as proteins and lipids into and out of the cell. The hydrolysis of ATP provides the required energy for active transport mechanisms to carry such molecules across a concentration gradient.

What happens if cells don't have ATP? ›

Since ATP is the energy source of cells, it is an essential element in the machinery of the entire system. Without energy, some of the processes in the cell like active transport, cellular respiration, electron transport chain, and other cellular processes which include ATP as pre-requisite, would not work.

Which process produces the most ATP? ›

Oxidative phosphorylation is the process of the formation of ATP, from ADP and inorganic phosphate. The process includes oxidation and reduction of proteins. This process takes place in the mitochondria during the electron transport chain of aerobic respiration. During oxidative phosphorylation, most ATPs are produced.

Where is energy made in the body? ›

The human body uses three types of molecules to yield the necessary energy to drive ATP synthesis: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Mitochondria are the main site for ATP synthesis in mammals, although some ATP is also synthesized in the cytoplasm.

Which type of cells make ATP? ›

1 Answer. The majority of ATP in aerobic, eukaryotic cells is produced by the mitochondria.

What enzyme makes ATP? ›

The ATP synthase is a mitochondrial enzyme localized in the inner membrane, where it catalyzes the synthesis of ATP from ADP and phosphate, driven by a flux of protons across a gradient generated by electron transfer from the proton chemically positive to the negative side.

Is ATP an enzyme? ›

adenosine triphosphate

…is produced by the enzyme ATP synthase, which converts ADP and phosphate to ATP. ATP synthase is located in the membrane of cellular structures called mitochondria; in plant cells, the enzyme also is found in chloroplasts.

Does ATP use oxygen? ›

During aerobic cellular respiration, glucose reacts with oxygen, forming ATP that can be used by the cell. Carbon dioxide and water are created as byproducts.
Aerobic vs anaerobic respiration.
ATP producedLarge amount (36 ATP)Small amount (2 ATP)
4 more rows

What are 3 ways that ATP is made? ›

ATPs are generated during cellular respiration. ATP is generated in glycolysis in the cytoplasm and in the TCA cycle and oxidative phosphorylation (ETS) in mitochondria.

Is ATP a DNA or RNA? ›

Adenosine triphosphate - ATP - is a molecule derived from adenosine phosphate, one of the four subunits of RNA (nucleotides). It consists of three parts: adenine - a nitrogenous base (purine) - often abbreviated to A in DNA and RNA.

Does ATP have DNA? ›

As a derivative, ATP has three parts that mirror its nucleotide counterparts, DNA and RNA. It has a nitrogenous base called "adenine." Adenine is connected to a backbone of five-carbon sugar rings called "ribose sugar" to form "adenosine," and it has a phosphate group composed of "three phosphates" (triphosphate).

Can ATP be used for DNA? ›

Energy from ATP is used to fuel all manner of chemical reactions, including those required for copying DNA and building proteins. In these reactions, enzymes oversee the transfer of energy from ATP hydrolysis to the formation of another chemical bond.

How much ATP is stored in the body? ›

It is estimated that there is only about 100g of ATP and about 120g of phosphocreatine stored in the body, mostly within the muscle cells. Together ATP and phosphocreatine are called 'high-energy' phosphates as large amounts of energy are released quickly during their breakdown.

Can life exist without ATP? ›

ATP is constantly formed and broken down as it participates in biological reactions and it is central to the health and growth of all life. Without it, cells could not transfer energy from one location to another, making it impossible for organisms to grow and reproduce!

What foods produce ATP? ›

Meat and fish also provide preformed ATP. When you eat meat and fish, the fatty acids and proteins are digested and absorbed. If your body requires an immediate source of energy, these nutrients are used to make ATP, helping to fuel your body, per the research in ​Nature Education​.

How much energy does ATP release? ›

The hydrolysis of one ATP molecule releases 7.3 kcal/mol of energy (∆G = −7.3 kcal/mol of energy).

What is needed for ATP? ›

Since ATP is found in all living things it's sometimes called the energy currency of cells, which goes well with this laundromat analogy. In order to make ATP, you need food (sugar) and oxygen. If you don't have food, you can't make ATP and you're going to die.

Which is the structure of ATP? ›

Structure. ATP consists of an adenine attached by the 9-nitrogen atom to the 1′ carbon atom of a sugar (ribose), which in turn is attached at the 5' carbon atom of the sugar to a triphosphate group.

How is ATP made from glucose? ›

Glucose is converted into ATP by cellular respiration. Glucose is completely oxidised to CO2 and water producing energy, which is stored as ATP. One molecule of glucose produces 38 ATP molecules by aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration occurs in the cytoplasm and mitochondria.

What is the role of ATP in metabolism? ›

Metabolic Reactions Involving ATP

Adenosine triphosphate is used to transport chemical energy in many important processes, including: aerobic respiration (glycolysis and the citric acid cycle) fermentation. cellular division.

What is the ATP cycle? ›

ATP Cycle - YouTube

What is ATP in topper? ›

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleotide with three phosphates. The ATP is produced by the addition of phosphorous to nucleoside adenosine. The first phosphate is attached by an ester bond. This bond is a normal covalent bond and not a high energy bond.

How is ATP made Class 10? ›

Formation of ATP: The energy released during respiration process is used to make an ATP molecule from ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and inorganic phosphate (P). When the terminal phosphate linkage in ATP is broken using water, the energy equivalent to 30.5 kJ/mol is released.

What is ATP in biology? ›

Adenosine 5′-triphosphate, abbreviated ATP and usually expressed without the 5′-, is an important “energy molecule” found in all life forms. Specifically, it is a coenzyme that works with enzymes such as ATP triphosphatase to transfer energy to cells by releasing its phosphate groups.

What is ATP and ADP in biology class 10? ›

ATP is adenosine triphosphate and contains three terminal phosphate groups, whereas ADP is adenosine diphosphate and contains only two phosphate groups. ADP is produced on hydrolysis of ATP and the energy released in the process is utilised to carry out various cellular processes.

Is ATP a protein or enzyme? ›

ATP synthase is a protein that catalyzes the formation of the energy storage molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) using adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and inorganic phosphate (Pi). It is classified under ligases as it changes ADP by the formation of P-O bond (phosphodiester bond).

Where is energy stored in ATP? ›

Adenosine Triphosphate

Energy is stored in the bonds joining the phosphate groups (yellow). The covalent bond holding the third phosphate group carries about 7,300 calories of energy.

What are the main functions of ATP? ›

The ATP is used for various cellular functions, including transportation of different molecules across cell membranes. Other functions of ATP include supplying the energy required for the muscle contraction, circulation of blood, locomotion and various body movements.

Where is ATP used? ›

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is an organic compound that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, condensate dissolution, and chemical synthesis.

Which is the structure of ATP? ›

Structure of ATP

It is made up of the molecule adenosine (which itself is made up of adenine and a ribose sugar) and three phosphate groups. It is soluble in water and has a high energy content due to having two phosphoanhydride bonds connecting the three phosphate groups.

What is the ATP cycle? ›

ATP Cycle - YouTube

Why is ATP important for a cell? ›

ATP plays a critical role in the transport of macromolecules such as proteins and lipids into and out of the cell. The hydrolysis of ATP provides the required energy for active transport mechanisms to carry such molecules across a concentration gradient.

What is the backbone of ATP? ›

The structure of ATP has an ordered carbon compound as a backbone, but the part that is really critical is the phosphorous part - the triphosphate.

What is the charge of ATP? ›

At neutral pH, triphosphate of ATP have a great repulsion between each other. This is because, at pH 7, all the phosphate of ATP carries a negative charge.

What enzyme converts ATP to ADP? ›

ATPases are a class of enzymes, which catalyse the hydrolysis of ATP to ADP. The energy derived by breaking the phosphate bond is utilised in various processes. Some examples are Ca2+ ATPase, H+ ATPase, myosin head also acts as an ATPase, etc.

What are the three parts of an ATP molecule? ›

ATP consists of a base, in this case adenine (red), a ribose (magenta) and a phosphate chain (blue).

What is the role of ATP in metabolism? ›

Metabolic Reactions Involving ATP

Adenosine triphosphate is used to transport chemical energy in many important processes, including: aerobic respiration (glycolysis and the citric acid cycle) fermentation. cellular division.


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