Energy Currency

Life processes require a constant supply of energy. This energy is available to cells in the form of certain compounds that store a large amount of energy in their overall structure. One of these compounds is adenosine (uh-DEN-uh-SEEN) triphosphate, more commonly referred to by its abbreviation, ATP.

The left side of Figure 3-5 shows a simplified ATP molecule structure. The 5-carbon sugar, ribose, is represented by the blue carbon ring. The nitrogen-containing compound, adenine, is represented by the 2 orange rings. The three linked phosphate groups, —PO4", are represented by the blue circles with a "P." The phospate groups are attached to each other by covalent bonds.

The covalent bonds between the phosphate groups are more unstable than the other bonds in the ATP molecule because the phosphate groups are close together and have negative charges. Thus, the negative charges make the bonds easier to break. When a bond between the phosphate groups is broken, energy is released. This hydrolysis of ATP is used by the cell to provide the energy needed to drive the chemical reactions that enable an organism to function.

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