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Name: Lylanie P.
Status: Student
Age: 17
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: September 2002

How come some bacteria can carry out complete oxidation of glucose in the absence of oxygen,i.e., anaerobic respiration? So, what is the " minimal biochemical mechanism" in order for this to be possible?

Dear Lylanie,

Biochemically speaking, glucose cannot be completely oxidized in the absence of oxygen. Aerobic respiration is required to extract the maximum biological reducing energy from glucose. However, although it does sound contradictory, glucose can be partially oxidized by glycolysis under anaerobic conditions. Chemical oxidation does not necessarily require the direct presence of oxygen itself, although it certainly can accelerate the process. It simply requires electron transfer from one molecule, which is then considered to be "oxidized", to another, which is then considered to be "reduced".

Consequently, "the 'minimal biochemical mechanism' in order for this to be possible" would be the glycolytic pathway, which is present in all living organisms. Both anaerobic and aerobic glucose metabolism are nicely described & diagrammed in the chapter on Cellular Metabolism and fermentation from the "On-Line Biology Book":

Hope that this helps to answer your question,

Jeff Buzby, Ph.D.
Children's Hospital of Orange County

Div. of Educational Programs
Argonne National Laboratory

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