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Gluconeogenesis is the metabolic process by which organisms produce sugars (namely glucose) for catabolic reactions from non-carbohydrate precursors. Glucose is the only energy source used by the brain (with the exception of ketone bodies during times of fasting), testes, erythrocytes, and kidney medulla. In mammals this process occurs in the liver and kidneys.
The need for energy is important to sustain life. Organisms have evolved ways of producing substrates required for the catabolic reactions necessary to sustain life when desired substrates are unavailable. The main source of energy for eukaryotes is glucose. When glucose is unavailable, organisms are capable of metabolizing glucose from other non-carbohydrate precursors. The process that coverts pyruvate into glucose is called gluconeogenesis. Another way organisms derive glucose is from energy stores like glycogen and starch.
Gluconeogenesis is much like glycolysis only the process occurs in reverse. However, there are exceptions. In glycolysis there are three highly exergonic steps (steps 1,3,10). These are also regulatory steps which include the enzymes hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, and pyruvate kinase. Biological reactions can occur in both the forward and reverse direction. If the reaction occurs in the reverse direction the energy normally released in that reaction is now required. If gluconeogenesis were to simply occur in reverse the reaction would require too much energy to be profitable to that particular organism. In order to overcome this problem, nature has evolved three other enzymes to replace the glycolysis enzymes hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, and pyruvate kinase when going through the process of gluconeogenesis:
Because it is important for organisms to conserve energy, they have derived ways to regulate those metabolic pathways that require and release the most energy. In glycolysis and gluconeogenesis seven of the ten steps occur at or near equilibrium. In gluconeogenesis the conversion of pyruvate to PEP, the conversion of fructose-1,6-bP, and the conversion of glucose-6-P to glucose all occur very spontaneously which is why these processes are highly regulated. It is important for the organism to conserve as much energy as possible. When there is an excess of energy available, gluconeogenesis is inhibited. When energy is required, gluconeogenesis is activated.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1246120