Cambridge Science Festival 2012

To highlight the central role that mitochondria play in cellular energy metabolism, we produced an animation showing the breakdown of a simple sugar molecule; from its uptake in the intestine to the series of energy conversion steps that lead to the synthesis of ATP in the mitochondrial matrix. After the sugar molecule enters the blood stream in the intestine, it is taken up by the human cell and undergoes a series of breakdown reactions in the cytoplasm of the cell to form pyruvate, which is subsequently transported into the mitochondrion (see figure below). A further series of reactions inside the mitochondrion converts the chemical energy stored in pyruvate into a membrane potential across the mitochondrial inner membrane by pumping protons out of the mitochondrion. This force is used by the ATP synthase to synthesise ATP, the cellular energy currency.