Glycolysis involves nine distinct reactions that convert glucose into pyruvate. In this section, we will cover the first four of these reactions, which convert glucose into glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. Glucose is a six- memebered ring molecule found in the blood and is usually a result of the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars. It enters cells through specific transporter proteins that move it from outside the cell into the cell's cytosol. All of the glycolytic enzymes are found in the cytosol.
In the first step of glycolysis, the glucose ring is phosphorylated. Phosphorylation is the process of adding a phosphate group to a molecule derived from ATP. As a result, at this point in glycolysis, 1 molecule of ATP has been consumed.
The reaction occurs with the help of the enzyme hexokinase, an enzyme that catalyzes the phosphorylation of many six-membered glucose-like ring structures. A kinase is the name given to an enzyme that phosphorylates other molecules. Atomic magnesium (Mg) is also involved to help shield the negative charges from the phosphate groups on the ATP molecule. The result of this phosphorylation is a molecule called glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), thusly called because the 6' carbon of the glucose acquires the phosphate group.
The second step of glycolysis involves the conversion of glucose-6-phosphate to fructose-6-phosphate (F6P). This reaction occurs with the help of the enzyme phosphoglucose isomerase (PI). As the name of the enzyme suggests, this reaction involves an isomerization reaction.
The reaction involves the rearrangement of the carbon-oxygen bond to transform the six-membered ring into a five-membered ring. To rearrangement takes place when the six-membered ring opens and then closes in such a way that the first carbon becomes now external to the ring.
In the third step of glycolysis, fructose-6-phosphate is converted to fructose- 1,6-bisphosphate (FBP). Similar to the reaction that occurs in step 1 of glycolysis, a second molecule of ATP provides the phosphate group that is added on to the F6P molecule.
The enzyme that catalyzes this reaction is phosphofructokinase (PFK). As in step 1, a magnesium atom is involved to help shield negative charges.
The final step of the first stage of glycolysis utilizes the enzyme aldolase, which catalyzes the cleavage of FBP to yield two 3-carbon molecules. One of these molecules is called glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (GAP) and the other is called dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP).
GAP is the only molecule that continues in the glycolytic pathway. As a result, all of the DHAP molecules produced are further acted on by the enzyme triphoshpate isomerase (TIM), which reorganizes the DHAP into GAP so it can continue in glycolysis. At this point in the glycolytic pathway, we have two 3-carbon molecules, but have not yet fully converted glucose into pyruvate.