Mitochondria Are the Principal Sites of ATP Production in Aerobic Cells

Most eukaryotic cells contain many mitochondria, which occupy up to 25 percent of the volume of the cytoplasm. These complex organelles, the main sites of ATP production during aerobic metabolism, are generally exceeded in size only by the nucleus, vacuoles, and chloroplasts.

The two membranes that bound a mitochondrion differ in composition and function. The outer membrane, composed of about half lipid and half protein, contains porins (see Figure 5-14) that render the membrane permeable to molecules having molecular weights as high as 10,000. In this respect, the outer membrane is similar to the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. The inner membrane, which is much less permeable, is about 20 percent lipid and 80 percent protein—a higher proportion of protein than exists in other cellular membranes. The surface area of the inner membrane is greatly increased by a large number of infoldings, or cristae, that protrude into the matrix, or central space (Figure 5-26).

In nonphotosynthetic cells, the principal fuels for ATP synthesis are fatty acids and glucose. The complete aerobic degradation of glucose to CO2 and H2O is coupled to the synthesis of as many as 30 molecules of ATP. In eukaryotic cells, the initial stages of glucose degradation take place in

Hetero chromatin

Inner membrane


Outer membrane

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