Glycolysis Overview

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Glycolysis is a linear metabolic pathway of enzyme-catalyzed reactions that convert glucose into two molecules of pyruvate in the presence of oxygen or into two molecules of lactate in the absence of oxygen. The latter pathway, anaerobic glycolysis, is believed to be the first process to have evolved in nature to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In most cells glycolysis converts glucose to pyruvate which is subsequently oxidized to carbon dioxide and water by mitochondrial enzymes. However, in some cells, most notably mature red blood cells, glycolysis is the only means of ATP production because of the lack of mitochondria. In the absence of oxygen, glycolysis is the only option that cells have for the production of ATP from glucose. Overproduction of lactic acid by anaerobic glycolysis leads to lactic acidosis, a life-threatening condition. Many cancer cells have an exceptionally high enzymatic capacity for glycolysis. Even when oxygen is available, cancer cells produce much of their ATP by glycolysis. The ability to produce sufficient ATP by a pathway that does not require oxygen gives cancer cells a selective advantage over normal cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Biological Chemistry
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780123786319
ISBN (Print)9780123786302
StatePublished - Feb 15 2013


  • Aerobic
  • Anaerobic
  • ATP
  • Cancer
  • Fermentation
  • Glycolysis
  • Hypoxia
  • Hypoxia inducible factor
  • Lactate
  • Lactic acidosis
  • Mitochondria
  • Oxygen
  • Pasteur effect
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Warburg effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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  • Cite this

    Harris, R. (2013). Glycolysis Overview. In Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry: Second Edition (pp. 443-447). Elsevier Inc..