Catabolism

Catabolism

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Catabolism'
Start a new discussion about 'Catabolism'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

For the related metabolic process, see anabolism
Anabolism
Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy. One way of categorizing metabolic processes, whether at the cellular, organ or organism level is as 'anabolic' or as 'catabolic', which is the opposite...

.


Catabolism (Greek kata = downward + ballein = to throw) is the set of metabolic pathways that break down molecules into smaller units and release energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

. In catabolism, large molecules such as polysaccharide
Polysaccharide
Polysaccharides are long carbohydrate molecules, of repeated monomer units joined together by glycosidic bonds. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Polysaccharides are often quite heterogeneous, containing slight modifications of the repeating unit. Depending on the structure,...

s, lipid
Lipid
Lipids constitute a broad group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins , monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, and others...

s, nucleic acid
Nucleic acid
Nucleic acids are biological molecules essential for life, and include DNA and RNA . Together with proteins, nucleic acids make up the most important macromolecules; each is found in abundance in all living things, where they function in encoding, transmitting and expressing genetic information...

s and protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

s are broken down into smaller units such as monosaccharide
Monosaccharide
Monosaccharides are the most basic units of biologically important carbohydrates. They are the simplest form of sugar and are usually colorless, water-soluble, crystalline solids. Some monosaccharides have a sweet taste. Examples of monosaccharides include glucose , fructose , galactose, xylose...

s, fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s, nucleotide
Nucleotide
Nucleotides are molecules that, when joined together, make up the structural units of RNA and DNA. In addition, nucleotides participate in cellular signaling , and are incorporated into important cofactors of enzymatic reactions...

s, and amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s, respectively. As molecules such as polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids are made from long chains of these small monomer
Monomer
A monomer is an atom or a small molecule that may bind chemically to other monomers to form a polymer; the term "monomeric protein" may also be used to describe one of the proteins making up a multiprotein complex...

 units (mono = one + mer = part), the large molecules are called polymer
Polymer
A polymer is a large molecule composed of repeating structural units. These subunits are typically connected by covalent chemical bonds...

s (poly = many).

Cells use the monomers released from breaking down polymers to either construct new polymer molecules, or degrade the monomers further to simple waste products, releasing energy. Cellular wastes include lactic acid
Lactic acid
Lactic acid, also known as milk acid, is a chemical compound that plays a role in various biochemical processes and was first isolated in 1780 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Lactic acid is a carboxylic acid with the chemical formula C3H6O3...

, acetic acid
Acetic acid
Acetic acid is an organic compound with the chemical formula CH3CO2H . It is a colourless liquid that when undiluted is also called glacial acetic acid. Acetic acid is the main component of vinegar , and has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell...

, carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

, ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, and urea
Urea
Urea or carbamide is an organic compound with the chemical formula CO2. The molecule has two —NH2 groups joined by a carbonyl functional group....

. The creation of these wastes is usually an oxidation process involving a release of chemical free energy, some of which is lost as heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

, but the rest of which is used to drive the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate
Adenosine triphosphate
Adenosine-5'-triphosphate is a multifunctional nucleoside triphosphate used in cells as a coenzyme. It is often called the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy transfer. ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism...

 (ATP). This molecule acts as a way for the cell to transfer the energy released by catabolism to the energy-requiring reactions that make up anabolism
Anabolism
Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy. One way of categorizing metabolic processes, whether at the cellular, organ or organism level is as 'anabolic' or as 'catabolic', which is the opposite...

. Catabolism therefore provides the chemical energy necessary for the maintenance and growth of cells. Examples of catabolic processes include glycolysis
Glycolysis
Glycolysis is the metabolic pathway that converts glucose C6H12O6, into pyruvate, CH3COCOO− + H+...

, the citric acid cycle
Citric acid cycle
The citric acid cycle — also known as the tricarboxylic acid cycle , the Krebs cycle, or the Szent-Györgyi-Krebs cycle — is a series of chemical reactions which is used by all aerobic living organisms to generate energy through the oxidization of acetate derived from carbohydrates, fats and...

, the breakdown of muscle protein in order to use amino acids as substrate
Substrate (biochemistry)
In biochemistry, a substrate is a molecule upon which an enzyme acts. Enzymes catalyze chemical reactions involving the substrate. In the case of a single substrate, the substrate binds with the enzyme active site, and an enzyme-substrate complex is formed. The substrate is transformed into one or...

s for gluconeogenesis
Gluconeogenesis
Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as lactate, glycerol, and glucogenic amino acids....

 and breakdown of fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 in adipose tissue
Adipose tissue
In histology, adipose tissue or body fat or fat depot or just fat is loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes. It is technically composed of roughly only 80% fat; fat in its solitary state exists in the liver and muscles. Adipose tissue is derived from lipoblasts...

 to fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s.

There are many signals that control catabolism. Most of the known signals are hormone
Hormone
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one...

s and the molecules involved in metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 itself. Endocrinologists have traditionally classified many of the hormones as anabolic or catabolic, depending on which part of metabolism they stimulate. The so-called classic catabolic hormones known since the early 20th century are cortisol
Cortisol
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, more specifically a glucocorticoid, produced by the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and a low level of blood glucocorticoids. Its primary functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis; suppress the immune system; and aid in fat,...

, glucagon
Glucagon
Glucagon, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, raises blood glucose levels. Its effect is opposite that of insulin, which lowers blood glucose levels. The pancreas releases glucagon when blood sugar levels fall too low. Glucagon causes the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose, which is...

, and adrenaline (and other catecholamine
Catecholamine
Catecholamines are molecules that have a catechol nucleus consisting of benzene with two hydroxyl side groups and a side-chain amine. They include dopamine, as well as the "fight-or-flight" hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline released by the adrenal medulla of the adrenal glands in response to...

s). In recent decades, many more hormones with at least some catabolic effects have been discovered, including cytokine
Cytokine
Cytokines are small cell-signaling protein molecules that are secreted by the glial cells of the nervous system and by numerous cells of the immune system and are a category of signaling molecules used extensively in intercellular communication...

s, orexin
Orexin
Orexins, also called hypocretins, are the common names given to a pair of excitatory neuropeptide hormones that were simultaneously discovered by two groups of researchers in rat brains....

 (also known as hypocretin), and melatonin
Melatonin
Melatonin , also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants, and microbes...

.

Many of these catabolic hormones express an anti-catabolic effect in muscle tissue. One study found that the administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) had an anti-proteolytic effect, and in fact suppressed catabolism rather than promoted it. Another study found that catecholamines in general (i.e. noradrenaline/norepinephrine and adrenaline/epinephrine) greatly decreased the rate of muscle catabolism.

See also

  • Anabolism
    Anabolism
    Anabolism is the set of metabolic pathways that construct molecules from smaller units. These reactions require energy. One way of categorizing metabolic processes, whether at the cellular, organ or organism level is as 'anabolic' or as 'catabolic', which is the opposite...

  • Autophagy
    Autophagy
    In cell biology, autophagy, or autophagocytosis, is a catabolic process involving the degradation of a cell's own components through the lysosomal machinery. It is a tightly regulated process that plays a normal part in cell growth, development, and homeostasis, helping to maintain a balance...

  • Dehydration synthesis
  • Hydrolysis
    Hydrolysis
    Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction during which molecules of water are split into hydrogen cations and hydroxide anions in the process of a chemical mechanism. It is the type of reaction that is used to break down certain polymers, especially those made by condensation polymerization...

  • Metabolism
    Metabolism
    Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

  • Nocturnal post absorptive catabolism