Edexcel International A Level Biology

Revision Notes

5.2 The Role of ATP in Photosynthesis

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ATP as an Energy Carrier in Photosynthesis

  • All organisms require a constant supply of energy to maintain their cells and stay alive
  • This energy is required e.g.
    • For building new molecules from the products of digestion during anabolic reactions
    • To move substances across cell membranes in active transport or to move substances within cells
    • For muscle contraction 
    • In the conduction of nerve impulses
  • In all known forms of life the molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is used to transfer and supply energy within cells
    • ATP is therefore known as the universal energy currency
    • ATP diffuses within cells to where it is needed
  • ATP is a type of nucleic acid and is structurally very similar to the nucleotides that make up DNA and RNA
    • It is a phosphorylated nucleotide 
      • A nucleotide consists of a nitrogenous base, a sugar, and a single phosphate group
      • ATP contains three phosphate groups, hence triphosphate

ATP Structure

ATP contains adenine, a ribose sugar, and three phosphates molecules. Removal of one phosphate creates ADP, and removal of two phosphates creates AMP.

  • ATP is produced by the addition of inorganic phosphate (Pi), a type of phosphate group, to adenosine diphosphate, or ADP

ADP + Prightwards arrowATP 

    • ADP contains two phosphate groups, hence diphosphate
  • ATP can be produced when the passage of electrons along a series of proteins known as the electron transport chain releases energy for the phosphorylation of ADP
    • This process occurs in the mitochondria during respiration and in chloroplasts during photosynthesis 
      • In photosynthesis the energy originally gained by the electrons in this process comes from light, so this method of ATP production is known as photophosphorylation
        • Photo = light
  • The hydrolysis, or breakdown, of ATP releases an inorganic phosphate as well as a small amount of energy which can be used by the cell

ATP rightwards arrow ADP + P

    • The removal of a phosphate group is known as dephosphorylation
    • The hydrolysis of ATP is catalysed by the enzyme ATPase
  • The ADP and inorganic phosphate produced by the hydrolysis of ATP can be recycled to make more ATP

ADP + Prightwards arrow ATP 

Cycling of ATP

ATP is formed during respiration and can be hydrolysed to release energy for processes such as active transport, muscle contraction, and building new molecules (anabolic reactions). ATP can then be regenerated from ADP and phosphate.

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Naomi H

Author: Naomi H

Naomi graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biological Sciences. She has 8 years of classroom experience teaching Key Stage 3 up to A-Level biology, and is currently a tutor and A-Level examiner. Naomi especially enjoys creating resources that enable students to build a solid understanding of subject content, while also connecting their knowledge with biology’s exciting, real-world applications.