Acetyl-CoA (acetyl coenzyme A) is a molecule that participates in many biochemical reactions in protein, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Its main function is to deliver the acetyl group to the citric acid cycle (Krebs cycle) to be oxidized for energy production. Coenzyme A (CoASH or CoA) consists of a β-mercaptoethylamine group linked to the vitamin pantothenic acid (B5) through an amide linkage and 3'-phosphorylated ADP. The acetyl group (indicated in blue in the structural diagram on the right) of acetyl-CoA is linked to the sulfhydryl substituent of the β-mercaptoethylamine group. This thioester linkage is a "high energy" bond, which is particularly reactive. Hydrolysis of the thioester bond is exergonic (−31.5 kJ/mol). CoA is acetylated to acetyl-CoA by the breakdown of carbohydrates through glycolysis and by the breakdown of fatty acids through β-oxidation. Acetyl-CoA then enters the citric acid cycle, where the acetyl group is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water, and the energy released is captured in the form of 11 ATP and one GTP per acetyl group. GTP is the equivalent of ATP and they can be interconverted by Nucleoside-diphosphate kinase. Konrad Bloch and Feodor Lynen were awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their discoveries linking acetyl-CoA and fatty acid metabolism. Fritz Lipmann won the Nobel Prize in 1953 for his discovery of the cofactor coenzyme A. The acetylation of CoA is determined by the carbon sources. At high glucose levels, glycolysis takes place rapidly, thus increasing the amount of citrate produced from the tricarboxylic acid cycle. This citrate is then exported to other organelles outside the mitochondria to be broken into acetyl-CoA and oxaloacetate by the enzyme ATP citrate lyase (ACL). This principal reaction is coupled with the hydrolysis of ATP. At low glucose levels: CoA is acetylated using acetate by acetyl-CoA synthetase (ACS), also coupled with ATP hydrolysis. Ethanol also serves as a carbon source for acetylation of CoA utilizing the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.
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