Under appropriate conditions and given sufficient time, individual biochemical reactions carried out in a test tube eventually will reach equilibrium. Within cells, however, many reactions are linked in pathways in which a product of one reaction serves as a reactant in another or is pumped out of the cell. In this more complex situation, when the rate of formation of a substance is equal to the rate of its consumption, the concentration of the substance remains constant, and the system of linked reactions for producing and consuming that substance is said to be in a steady state (Figure 2-21). One consequence of such linked reactions is that they prevent the accumulation of excess intermediates, protecting cells from the harmful effects of intermediates that have the potential of being toxic at high concentrations.
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