27. The Pentose Phosphate Pathway: The Many Essential Roles of Glucose

The pentose phosphate pathway provides a deep look into a stunning array of essential roles for glucose. In it, glucose becomes the source of NADPH, used for antioxidant defense, detoxification, recycling of nutrients like vitamin K and folate, and the anabolic synthesis of fatty acids, cholesterol, neurotransmitters, and nucleotides. At the same time, glucose also becomes the source of 5-carbon sugars, used structurally in DNA, RNA, and energy carriers like ATP, coenzyme A, NADH, NADPH, and FADH2. DNA is needed for growth, reproduction, and cellular repair; RNA is needed to translate genetic information from DNA into all of the structures in our bodies; the energy carriers constitute the very infrastructure of the entire system of energy metabolism. This lesson covers the details of the pentose phosphate pathway, how it operates in multiple modes according to the relative needs of the cell for ATP, NADPH, and 5-carbon sugars, the role of glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and thiamin deficiency in its dysfunction, and what it means for the importance of glucose to human health.