April 16th, 2011

biological energy storage

Above: Glycogen. “A core protein of glycogenin is surrounded by branches of
glucose units. The entire globular granule may contain approximately 30,000 glucose units.”

What is an energy storage molecule? All molecules have energy “stored” in the chemical bonds that link their atoms. However, relatively few molecules found inside living organisms function as significant energy storage molecules. Most molecules of living organisms have other functions such as forming structures, holding and organizing genetic information, transforming existing molecules into other molecules, sending signals that coordinate the behavior of cells. Some molecules have important primary function related to the storage of chemical energy and such molecules can be thought of as “energy storage molecules”.

Key aspects for all energy storage molecules are the details of how they are formed by chemical reactions, where they are stored, and how they are metabolized to release the stored energy. In some cases, the location in an organism where an energy storage molecule is formed, stored or where it is during release of the stored energy are not the same and transport of the molecule through an organism’s body becomes an important issue.

Among the energy storage molecules, one of the key distinctions that can be made is the normal length of time between the formation of the molecule and its metabolism and release of the stored energy. Molecules such as ATP can be formed, diffuse a short distance within a cell and be metabolized to release the stored energy within a very short time period (on the order of seconds). Fat molecules can be stored in fat tissue and then used many months later, for example, during hibernation. Other energy storage molecules are specialized to hold energy for intermediate periods time, from minutes to days.

Like the previous post, for me this is another case of rethinking previous conceptions and inspiring new wonder, where before my understanding was only adequate but not profound.

The above text is from this incomplete wikiversity page.

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