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glucose

Wednesday 2 June 2004

Definition: The glucose (Glc) is a monosaccharide (or simple sugar) also known as grape sugar, blood sugar, or corn sugar. The name "glucose" comes from the Greek word glukus (γλυκύς), meaning "sweet", and the suffix "-ose," which denotes a sugar.

The living cell uses it as a source of energy and metabolic intermediate.

Glucose is one of the main products of photosynthesis and starts cellular respiration in both prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) and eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi, and protists).

Two stereoisomers of the aldohexose sugars are known as glucose, only one of which (D-glucose) is biologically active. This form (D-glucose) is often referred to as dextrose monohydrate, or, especially in the food industry, simply dextrose (from dextrorotatory glucose).

This article deals with the D-form of glucose. The mirror-image of the molecule, L-glucose, cannot be metabolized by cells in the biochemical process known as glycolysis.

Scientists can speculate on the reasons why glucose, and not another monosaccharide such as fructose (Fru), is so widely used in organisms.

Low rate of glycation

One reason might be that glucose has a lower tendency, as compared to other hexose sugars, to non-specifically react with the amino groups of proteins. This reaction (glycation) reduces or destroys the function of many enzymes.

The low rate of glycation is due to glucose’s preference for the less reactive cyclic isomer. Nevertheless, many of the long-term complications of diabetes (e.g., blindness, renal failure, and peripheral neuropathy) are probably due to the glycation of proteins or lipids.

In contrast, enzyme-regulated addition of glucose to proteins by glycosylation is often essential to their function.

Function

- Energy source

Glucose is a ubiquitous fuel in biology. It is used as an energy source in most organisms, from bacteria to humans. Use of glucose may be by either aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration, or fermentation. Carbohydrates are the human body’s key source of energy, through aerobic respiration, providing approximately 3.75 kilocalories (16 kilojoules) of food energy per gram.

Breakdown of carbohydrates (e.g. starch) yields mono- and disaccharides, most of which is glucose. Through glycolysis and later in the reactions of the citric acid cycle (TCAC), glucose is oxidized to eventually form CO2 and water, yielding energy sources, mostly in the form of ATP.

The insulin reaction, and other mechanisms, regulate the concentration of glucose in the blood. A high fasting blood sugar level is an indication of prediabetic and diabetic conditions.

Glucose is a primary source of energy for the brain, and hence its availability influences psychological processes. When glucose is low, psychological processes requiring mental effort (e.g., self-control, effortful decision-making) are impaired.

- Glucose in glycolysis

Use of glucose as an energy source in cells is via aerobic or anaerobic respiration. Both of these start with the early steps of the glycolysis metabolic pathway. The first step of this is the phosphorylation of glucose by hexokinase to prepare it for later breakdown to provide energy.

The major reason for the immediate phosphorylation of glucose by a hexokinase is to prevent diffusion out of the cell. The phosphorylation adds a charged phosphate group so the glucose 6-phosphate cannot easily cross the cell membrane. Irreversible first steps of a metabolic pathway are common for regulatory purposes.

- As a precursor

Glucose is critical in the production of proteins and in lipid metabolism. In plants and most animals, it is also a precursor for vitamin C (ascorbic acid) production. It is modified for use in these processes by the glycolysis pathway.

Glucose is used as a precursor for the synthesis of several important substances.

Starch, cellulose, and glycogen ("animal starch") are common glucose polymers (polysaccharides). Lactose, the predominant sugar in milk, is a glucose-galactose disaccharide.

In sucrose, another important disaccharide, glucose is joined to fructose. These synthesis processes also rely on the phosphorylation of glucose through the first step of glycolysis.

See also

- glycolysis (oxidation of glucose)
- glycogenogenesis
- glycogenolysis
- glucose-transporters