What’s ATP?

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Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleotide that transports chemical energy within cells for metabolic purposes. It is made up of adenosine and three phosphates, and is created through photosynthesis in plants and cellular respiration in animals. ATP is responsible for anabolic reactions, active transport, maintaining fluid volume, sending signals between cells, and more. It is also responsible for the beating of flagella and cilia, and bioluminescence in some organisms.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleotide, a type of molecule that makes up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), the building blocks of genetic material. When not part of an RNA or DNA molecule, ATP serves to transport chemical energy within cells for various metabolic purposes. Some mechanisms by which ATP is essential are the synthesis of chemical compounds such as proteins, cell motility or movement, and cell division. Adenosine triphosphate is made up of other nucleotides, adenosine diphosphate (ADP) or adenosine monophosphate (AMP), and when it participates in metabolic functions it reverts to these precursors.

This substance consists of adenosine, which is made up of the base adenine and an attached sugar ribose, and three phosphates, alpha, beta and gamma phosphates. In plants, it’s created through photosynthesis, which uses sunlight as an energy source and converts carbon dioxide into sugar. In animals, ATP is created through cellular respiration, which typically uses oxygen to convert glucose into carbon dioxide and water. Cellular respiration can also occur in the absence of oxygen, in which case we speak of glycolysis or anaerobic respiration and the product is pyruvic acid.

Adenosine triphosphate is stored energy. It becomes active when it is broken down by hydrolysis, the insertion of water molecules between its chemical bonds. Hydrolysis causes one of the phosphates of ATP to detach, releasing energy.

ATP is the most important energy source for intracellular activities. It is responsible for most anabolic reactions, where precursor molecules combine into larger molecules. Some examples include the assembly of proteins; assembly of some of the component parts of DNA and RNA; and the synthesis of fats and polysaccharides, a group of carbohydrates.

It is also responsible for active transport, where materials are pumped into or out of cells across the cell membrane. It also helps maintain ideal fluid volume within the cell and helps send signals between cells. The transmission of information through the nervous system and the contraction of muscles also depend on ATP.

The beating of flagella and cilia is also driven by adenosine triphosphate. These actions have many functions, including the movement of food through the digestive tract and the motility of sperm. ATP is also responsible for bioluminescence, the ability of some organisms, such as fireflies and anglerfish, to emit light.

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