Overview of Glycogen Metabolism

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Chapter: Biochemistry : Glycogen Metabolism

A constant source of blood glucose is an absolute requirement for human life.

Glycogen Metabolism



A constant source of blood glucose is an absolute requirement for human life. Glucose is the greatly preferred energy source for the brain, and the required energy source for cells with few or no mitochondria such as mature red blood cells. Glucose is also essential as an energy source for exercising muscle, where it is the substrate for anaerobic glycolysis. Blood glucose can be obtained from three primary sources: the diet, degradation of glycogen, and gluconeogenesis. Dietary intake of glucose and glucose precursors, such as starch (a polysaccharide), disaccharides, and monosaccharides, is sporadic and, depending on the diet, is not always a reliable source of blood glucose. In contrast, gluconeogenesis can provide sustained synthesis of glucose, but it is somewhat slow in responding to a falling blood glucose level. Therefore, the body has developed mechanisms for storing a supply of glucose in a rapidly mobilizable form, namely, glycogen. In the absence of a dietary source of glucose, this sugar is rapidly released from liver and kidney glycogen. Similarly, muscle glycogen is extensively degraded in exercising muscle to provide that tissue with an important energy source. When glycogen stores are depleted, specific tissues synthesize glucose de novo, using amino acids from the body’s proteins as a primary source of carbons for the gluconeogenic pathway. Figure 11.1 shows the reactions of glycogen synthesis and degradation as part of the essential pathways of energy metabolism.

Figure 11.1 Glycogen synthesis and degradation shown as a part of the essential pathways of energy metabolism (see Figure 8.2, for a more detailed view of the overall reactions of metabolism). P = phosphate; UDP = uridine diphosphate.

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