The pentose phosphate pathway is responsible for the generation of a substantial fraction of the cytoplasmic NADPH required for biosynthetic reactions, and for the generation of ribose 5-phosphate for nucleotide synthesis. Although the pentose phosphate pathway and glycolysis are distinct, they involve three common intermediates, glucose 6-phosphate, glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, and fructose 6-phosphate, so the two pathways are interconnected. The pentose phosphate pathway consists of eight reactions:1. Conversion glucose 6-phosphate to D-glucono-1,5-lactone 6-phosphate, with the formation of NADPH; 2. Conversion of D-glucono-1,5-lactone 6-phosphate to 6-phospho-D-gluconate; 3. Conversion of 6-phospho-D-gluconate to ribulose 5-phosphate, with the formation of NADPH; 4. Conversion of ribulose 5-phosphate to xylulose 5-phosphate; 5. Conversion of ribulose 5-phosphate to ribose 5-phosphate; 6. Rearrangement of ribose 5-phosphate and xylulose 5-phosphate to form sedoheptulose 7-phosphate and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate; 7. Rearrangement of sedoheptulose 7-phosphate and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate to form erythrose 4-phosphate and fructose 6-phosphate; and 8. Rearrangement of xylulose 5-phosphate and erythrose 4-phosphate to form glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate and fructose-6-phosphate.
The oxidative branch of the pentose phosphate pathway, reactions 1-3, generates NADPH and pentose 5-phosphate. The non-oxidative branch of the pathway, reactions 4-8, converts pentose 5-phosphate to other sugars.
The overall pathway can operate to generate only NADPH (glucose 6-phosphate is converted to pentose 5-phosphates, which are directed to the synthesis of fructose 6-phosphate and glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate, which in turn are converted back to glucose 6-phosphate). The reactions of the non-oxidative branch can operate to generate net amounts of ribose 5-phosphate with no production of NADPH. Net flux through this network of reactions appears to depend on the metabolic state of the cell and the nature of the biosynthetic reactions underway (Casazza and Veech 1987).
G6PD, the enzyme that catalyzes the first reaction of the pathway, is more extensively mutated in human populations than any other enzyme, pehaps because these mutant alleles confer malaria resistance (Luzzatto and Afolayan 1968). Mutations affecting other parts of the pathway are rare, though several have been described and studies of their effects have contributed to our understanding of the normal flux of metabolites through this network of reactions (Wamelink et al. 2008).
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