Glycolysis (from glycose, an older term for glucose + -lysis degradation) is the metabolic pathway that converts glucose, C6H12O6, into pyruvate, C3H5O3-. The free energy released in this process is used to form the high energy compounds, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and NADH (reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).
Glycolysis is a sequence of ten reactions involving ten intermediate compounds (one of the steps involves two intermediates). The intermediates provide entry points to glycolysis. For example, most monosaccharides, such as fructose, glucose, and galactose, can be converted to one of these intermediates. The intermediates may also be directly useful. For example, the intermediate dihydroxyacetone phosphate is a source of the glycerol that combines with fatty acids to form fat.
Glycolysis is the archetype of a universal metabolic pathway. It occurs, with variations, in nearly all organisms, both aerobic and anaerobic. The wide occurrence of glycolysis indicates that it is one of the most ancient metabolic pathways known.

The most common and well-known type of glycolysis is the Embden-Meyerhof pathway, which was elucidated by Gustav Embden and Otto Meyerhof.

Preparatory phase

The first five steps are regarded as the preparatory (or investment) phase since they consume energy to convert the glucose into two three-carbon sugar phosphate.

The first step in glycolysis is phosphorylation of glucose by a family of enzymes called hexokinases to form glucose 6-phosphate (G6P). This reaction consumes ATP, but it acts to keep the glucose concentration low, promoting continuous transport of glucose into the cell through the plasma membrane transporters. In addition, it blocks the glucose from leaking out - the cell lacks transporters for G6P. Glucose may alternatively be from the phosphorolysis or hydrolysis of intracellular starch or glycogen.

In animals, an isozyme of hexokinase called glucokinase is also used in the liver, which has a much lower affinity for glucose (Km in the vicinity of normal glycemia), and differs in regulatory properties. The different substrate affinity and alternate regulation of this enzyme are a reflection of the role of the liver in maintaining blood sugar levels.

Cofactors: Mg2+

G6P is then rearranged into fructose 6-phosphate (F6P) by glucose phosphate isomerase. Fructose can also enter the glycolytic pathway by phosphorylation at this point.

The change in structure is an isomerization, in which the G6P has been converted to F6P. The reaction requires an enzyme, phosphohexose isomerase, to proceed. This reaction is freely reversible under normal cell conditions. However, it is often driven forward because of a low concentration of F6P, which is constantly consumed during the next step of glycolysis. Under conditions of high F6P concentration this reaction readily runs in reverse. This phenomenon can be explained through Le Chatelier's Principle.

The energy expenditure of another ATP in this step is justified in 2 ways: The glycolytic process (up to this step) is now irreversible, and the energy supplied destabilizes the molecule. Because the reaction catalyzed by Phosphofructokinase 1 (PFK-1) is energetically very favorable, it is essentially irreversible, and a different pathway must be used to do the reverse conversion during gluconeogenesis. This makes the reaction a key regulatory point (see below).

The same reaction can also be catalysed by pyrophosphate dependent phosphofructokinase (PFP or PPi-PFK), which is found in most plants, some bacteria, archea and protists but not in animals. This enzyme uses pyrophosphate (PPi) as a phosphate donor instead of ATP. It is a reversible reaction, increasing the flexibility of glycolytic metabolism. A rarer ADP-dependent PFK enzyme variant has been identified in archaean species.

Cofactors: Mg2+

Destabilizing the molecule in the previous reaction allows the hexose ring to be split by aldolase into two triose sugars, dihydroxyacetone phosphate, a ketone, and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, an aldehyde. There are two classes of aldolases: class I aldolases, present in animals and plants, and class II aldolases which present in fungi and bacteria; the two classes use different mechanisms in cleaving the hexose ring.

Triosephosphate isomerase rapidly interconverts dihydroxyacetone phosphate with glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (GADP) that proceeds further into glycolysis. This is advantageous, as it directs dihydroxyacetone phosphate down the same pathway as glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, simplifying regulation.

Pay-off phase
The second half of glycolysis is known as the pay-off phase, characterised by a net gain of the energy-rich molecules ATP and NADH. Since glucose leads to two triose sugars in the preparatory phase, each reaction in the pay-off phase occurs twice per glucose molecule. This yields 2 NADH molecules and 4 ATP molecules, leading to a net gain of 2 NADH molecules and 2 ATP molecules from the glycolytic pathway per glucose.

The triose sugars are dehydrogenated and inorganic phosphate is added to them, forming 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate.

The hydrogen is used to reduce two molecules of NAD+, a hydrogen carrier, to give NADH + H+.

This step is the enzymatic transfer of a phosphate group from 1,3-bisphosphoglycerate to ADP by phosphoglycerate kinase, forming ATP and 3-phosphoglycerate. At this step, glycolysis has reached the break-even point: 2 molecules of ATP were consumed, and 2 new molecules have now been synthesized. This step, one of the two substrate-level phosphorylation steps, requires ADP; thus, when the cell has plenty of ATP (and little ADP), this reaction does not occur. Because ATP decays relatively quickly when it is not metabolized, this is an important regulatory point in the glycolytic pathway.

Cofactors: Mg2+

Phosphoglycerate mutase now forms 2-phosphoglycerate. Notice that this enzyme is a mutase and not an isomerase. Whereas an isomerase changes the oxidation state of the carbons of the compound, a mutase does not.

Enolase next forms phosphoenolpyruvate from 2-phosphoglycerate.

Cofactors: 2 Mg2+: one "conformational" ion to coordinate with the carboxylate group of the substrate, and one "catalytic" ion which participates in the dehydration.

A final substrate-level phosphorylation now forms a molecule of pyruvate and a molecule of ATP by means of the enzyme pyruvate kinase. This serves as an additional regulatory step, similar to the phosphoglycerate kinase step.

Cofactors: Mg2+

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