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What is the ATP?

We explain what ATP is, what are some of the functions it fulfills and the importance of this organic molecule.

  1. What is the ATP?

In biochemistry , an organic molecule of the nucleotide type , called fundamental for obtaining cellular energy, known as adenosine triphosphate or adenosine triphosphate is called by the acronym ATP .

It is the main energy source for most known cellular processes and functions.

The name of ATP comes from its molecular composition: a nitrogenous base (adenine) bonded with the carbon atom of a pentose-type sugar molecule (ribose), in turn with three phosphate ions bonded to another carbon atom.

Its molecular formula is C10H16N5O13P3  and is produced both in plant photorespiration, and in animal cellular respiration.

ATP  is very soluble in water (by hydrolysis ) and stable in pH ranges between 6.8 and 7.4. When dissolved it releases a large amount of energy.

Since it has several molecular groups that give it a negative charge (ionized at a level 4-), it is usually found in cells as part of a complex with magnesium (Mg2 +) or other metals with which it has an affinity.

This molecule was discovered in 1929 by the German biochemist Karl Lohmann , and its functioning as the main energy transfer molecule of the cell was discovered in 1941 by Fritz Albert Lipmann.

  1. Importance of ATP

ATP is a fundamental molecule for various vital processes, in the first instance as a source of energy for the synthesis of complex macromolecules , such as DNA , RNA or proteins .

That is, the ATP provides the excess energy necessary to enable certain chemical reactions in the body.

This is because it has energy-rich bonds, which can dissolve in water according to the following reaction:

ATP + H2O = ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate) + P + Energy

On the other hand, ATP is key in the transport of macromolecules through the cell membrane (exocytosis and endocytosis), it allows synaptic communication between neurons , so its continuous synthesis is required from the glucose obtained from food , and its continuous consumption by the various cellular systems of the body.

The intake of certain toxic elements (gases, poisons) that inhibit the ATP processes, often cause death very quickly, such as arsenic or cyanide.

Finally, ATP cannot be stored in its natural state , but as part of larger compounds, such as glycogen (which can be converted to glucose and from its oxidation obtain ATP) in animals and starch in plants.

Similarly, it can be stored in the form of animal fat, by the synthesis of fatty acids.

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