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Why do you need to breathe?

Of course if you didn't breathe, you couldn't survive. Why do you need air to live? You need the gas
oxygen to perform cellular respiration to get energy from your food.
The Process of Cellular Respiration
Cellular respiration is the process of extracting energy in the form of ATP from the glucose in the food
you eat. How does cellular respiration happen inside of the cell? Cellular respiration is a three step
process. Briefly:
In stage one, glucose is broken down in the cytoplasm of the cell in a process called glycolysis.
In stage two, the pyruvate molecules are transported into the mitochondria. The
mitochondria are the organelles known as the energy "powerhouses" of the cells (Figure below).
In the mitochondria, the pyruvate, which have been converted into a 2-carbon molecule, enter
the Krebs cycle. Notice that mitochondria have an inner membrane with many folds, called cristae.
These cristae greatly increase the membrane surface area where many of the cellular respiration
reactions take place.
In stage three, the energy in the energy carriers enters an electron transport chain. During this
step, this energy is used to produce ATP.
Oxygen is needed to help the process of turning glucose into ATP. The initial step releases just two
molecules of ATP for each glucose. The later steps release much more ATP.

The Reactants
What goes into the cell? Oxygen and glucose are both reactants of cellular respiration. Oxygen enters
the body when an organism breathes. Glucose enters the body when an organism eats.
The Products
What does the cell produce? The products of cellular respiration are carbon dioxide and water.
Carbon dioxide is transported from your mitochondria out of your cell, to your red blood cells, and
back to your lungs to be exhaled. ATP is generated in the process. When one molecule of glucose is
broken down, it can be converted to a net total of 36 or 38 molecules of ATP. This only occurs in the
presence of oxygen.
The Chemical Reaction
The overall chemical reaction for cellular respiration is one molecule of glucose (C 6H12O6) and six
molecules of oxygen (O2) yields six molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) and six molecules
of water (H2O). Using chemical symbols the equation is represented as follows:
C6H12O6 + 6O2 6CO2 + 6H2O
ATP is generated during the process. Though this equation may not seem that complicated, cellular
respiration is a series of chemical reactions divided into three stages: glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, and
the electron transport chain.

Stage one of cellular respiration is glycolysis. Glycolysis is the splitting, or lysis of glucose.
Glycolysis converts the 6-carbon glucose into two 3-carbon pyruvate molecules. This process occurs in
the cytoplasm of the cell, and it occurs in the presence or absence of oxygen. During glycolysis a small
amount of NADH is made as are four ATP. Two ATP are used during this process, leaving a net gain of
two ATP from glycolysis. The NADH temporarily holds energy, which will be used in stage three.
The Krebs Cycle
In the presence of oxygen, under aerobic conditions, pyruvate enters the mitochondria to proceed into
the Krebs cycle. The second stage of cellular respiration is the transfer of the energy in pyruvate,
which is the energy initially in glucose, into two energy carriers, NADH and FADH 2. A small amount
of ATP is also made during this process. This process occurs in a continuous cycle, named after its
discover, Hans Krebs. The Krebs cycle uses a 2-carbon molecule (acetyl-CoA) derived from pyruvate
and produces carbon dioxide.
The Electron Transport Chain
Stage three of cellular respiration is the use of NADH and FADH 2 to generate ATP. This occurs in two
parts. First, the NADH and FADH2 enter an electron transport chain, where their energy is used to
pump, by active transport, protons (H+) out of the thylakoid. This establishes a proton gradient across
the thylakoid membrane. These protons then flow down their concentration gradient, moving back
into the thylakoid by facilitated diffusion. During this process, ATP is made by adding inorganic
phosphate to ADP. Most of the ATP produced during cellular respiration is made during this stage.
For each glucose that starts cellular respiration, in the presence of oxygen (aerobic conditions), 36-38
ATP are generated. Without oxygen, under anaerobic conditions, much less (only two!) ATP are

Most of the steps of cellular respiration take place in the mitochondria.

Oxygen and glucose are both reactants in the process of cellular respiration.
The main product of cellular respiration is ATP; waste products include carbon dioxide