Oxidative phosphorylation refers to a metabolic pathway where cells’ mitochondria use their enzymes, structure and energy that is released by nutrients’ oxidation in reforming ATP. Oxidation phosphorylation is simplified as OXPHOS. Despite different life forms in the planet earth using different types of nutrients, ATP is the sole molecule that offers energy to the metabolism process. Oxidative phosphorylation takes place in almost every aerobic organism.
As a pathway, oxidative phosphorylation is perhaps, so pervasive since it allows for a highly efficient way via which energy is released as compared to the alternative processes of fermentation such as the anaerobic glycolysis. Electrons transfer takes place during the process of oxidative phosphorylation.
Electrons transfer occurs when electrons are moved from the electron donors to the electron acceptors such as redox reactions and oxygen. Redox reactions that take place during oxidative phosphorylation release energy. This energy is used in the formation of ATP. Redox reactions in the eukaryotes are performed by several protein complexes in the intermembrane wall mitochondria of the cell. In the prokaryotes, the proteins are situated in the inter-membrane space of the cells. The linked protein sets are known as the electron transport chains. In the eukaryotes, there are five major protein complexes that are involved. On the other hand, prokaryotes have various enzymes that use different electron donors as well as acceptors.
Energy that is released when the electrons flow via this process of electron transport chain is basically used in the transport of protons across inner membrane of mitochondria in a process known as the electron transport. This process also produces potential energy in pH gradient form. It also generates electrical potential across the membrane. This creates a store for energy that is tapped by letting proteins flow back across mitochondrial membrane downing this gradient via large enzyme known as ATP synthase. This process is called chemiosmosis.
The energy is used by the enzyme in generating ATP from the adenosine diphosphate in the phosphorylation reaction. Proton flow drives this reaction which in turn forces rotation forces of the part of enzyme. ATP synthase acts as the rotary mechanical motor of the process.
Despite being an important metabolism part, oxidative phosphorylation produces reactive species of oxygen including hydrogen peroxide and superoxide which then leads to the propagation of the free radicals which damage cells and facilitating diseases and senescence or aging. Many poisons and drugs that inhibit activities of the enzymes that carry out oxidative phosphorylation target them.
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