ATP will actually break free of the ATP

ATP is the molecule that fuels life. It is where our cells get the energy needed to perform their tasks. This lesson will define ATP, explain its structure, and briefly outline how it works.


Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short, is the energy currency of life. ATP is a high-energy molecule found in every cell. Its job is to store and supply the cell with needed energy.

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Energy Currency

Nerve Cells

Cells are the building blocks of life. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Each cell has a specific function to help the organism to perform tasks necessary for survival.

For instance, nerve cells are needed to communicate messages to our brains. They also allow us to think. Another example is the cells that make up our various muscles, such as the ones found in our eyelids that allow us to blink. All cells perform specific tasks, and all cells need energy to perform these tasks. This is where ATP comes into play.

In order for us to blink and think, we need the energy that ATP supplies to our cells. ATP is responsible for the energy needed to perform muscle contractions, nerve impulses, metabolism functions, and other various life-sustaining functions. It supplies the energy for chemical and mechanical reactions in every cell.ATP is found in the cytoplasm of the cell.

The cytoplasm is the gel-type filler of the cell where all of the organelles of the cell hang out. This location makes sense because the ATP needs to be near all of the cell parts so that it can supply them with the energy they need for chemical and mechanical reactions.ATP gets its energy by breaking down food. It is created in the mitochondria, the powerhouse factory organelle, during the process of cellular respiration. The energy is obtained from breaking down food. Animals eat the food, and plants absorb the energy from light through the process of photosynthesis.

Energy Molecule

Adenosine triphosphate is a high-energy molecule.

The main ingredients of this molecule are carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus. Its chemical formula is:C10 H16 N5 O13 P 3There are three sections of the ATP molecule. In the center is a sugar molecule called ribose. Attached to one end of the ribose are rings of carbon and nitrogen that form a base known as adenine. At the other end of the ribose is a group of three phosphates. The group of three phosphates is the key to the energy in the molecule.

The three phosphate atoms are linked together by phosphate bonds. The energy is actually locked in these bonds. Enzymes will come along and tell these bonds to break. The phosphate group will actually break free of the ATP molecule and release a lot of energy.The cell will use this energy to perform other reactions such as building proteins. When the organism is resting, the reverse reaction takes place, and the phosphate will re-attach itself to the ribose base of the molecule.

Lesson Summary

ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is a high-energy molecule that is found floating in the cytoplasm of every cell. It’s a three-part molecule that has a phosphate group. When this phosphate group becomes detached from the molecule, it releases a lot of energy. The cell will use this energy to perform various chemical and mechanical reactions.

It is these reactions that cause nerve impulses and allow us to contract our muscles. Therefore, ATP gives us the energy to perform all of life’s tasks, such as blinking and thinking.

ATP Vocabulary & Definitions

The molecule
  • ATP – This acronym is short for adenosine triphosphate – the high-energy molecules in every cell.
  • Cells – These are the blocks of life that have various sizes and shapes as well as different functions in the body.
  • Cytoplasm – This is a gel-like filler in molecules where these cells hang out.
  • Mitochondria – Mitochondria are the dynamo factories in the cells that break down food and create energy.

Learning Outcomes

Studying this lesson on ATP and reviewing it at length could prepare you to subsequently:

  • Recite the definition of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
  • Understand the way in which cells work inside the body
  • Detail the way in which ATP creates energy for the cells

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