Cell Respiration in Plants

Written by laurence girard
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Cell Respiration in Plants
Plants use a combination of photosynthesis and cellular respiration to produce energy. (PLANT image by brelsbil from Fotolia.com)

Plants are photoautotrophs, or self-feeders, that use the sun for energy, according to Kennesaw State University. Plants use photosynthesis for cellular respiration, according to Worsleyschool.net. Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are the biological processes where green plants use a combination of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to create energy. The energy, or food, created during photosynthesis is used for cellular respiration within the mitochondria of plant cells. Chlorophyll is the scientific term used to describe this energy. Cellular respiration takes place the same way it does in plants as it does in animals, but without photosynthesis, plants could not carry out cellular respiration.


The chemical formula for photosynthesis in plants or photosynthesis is 6CO2 + 6H2O + Energy = 6O2 C6H12O16.

The chemical formula for aerobic cellular respiration is 6O2 + C6H1206 = 6H20 + 6CO2 + 36 ATP (Energy).


Chloroplasts carry out photosynthesis in plant cells by combining chlorophyll with sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to produce glucose and oxygen, according to Worsleyschool.net. Chloroplasts contain light absorbing pigment molecules that help with capture light energy, according to Kennesaw State University. Chloroplasts lose electrons during photosynthesis, which are eventually replaced by electrons found in water so photosynthesis can be repeated.

The First Steps of Cellular Respiration

The first steps of cellular respiration take place after photosynthesis has been completed. The breakdown of glucose begins in the cytoplasm which is the liquid solution located inside plant cells. From here, two energy pathways exist including aerobic and anaerobic respiration.

Mitochondria & Aerobic Respiration

Mitochondria provide the energy that cells need to move, divide and survive, according to Cellsalive.com. In plants, the mitochondria are responsible for aerobic cellular respiration. Mitochondria use glucose molecules (chlorophyll) produced during photosynthesis and break them into an energy form known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, that can be used in cells. ATP molecules have phosphate bonds between atoms that store large amounts of energy.

The electron transport chain and the Kreb's cycle are two important reactions that occur in the mitochondria during aerobic respiration. The Kreb's cycle completes the breakdown of glucose molecules, according to Kennesaw University. The Kreb's cycle takes pyruvate, a three-carbon chain, and breaks it down to carbon dioxide and water molecules. Hydrogen electrons from water are then loaded into NAD+ and FAD molecules to produce NADH and FADH2 molecules. This produces an additional four ATPs and the electron transport chain begins.

Electron carriers such as NADH and FADH2 are loaded with electrons and protons from the Kreb's cycle slowly begin to release energy during the electron transport chain. The electron transport chain produces a total of 32 ATPs.

Anaerobic Respiration

Anaerobic respiration produces only two ATPs from one glucose molecule instead of the 36 ATPS that are produced from one glucose molecule during aerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration yields byproducts such as ethanol, CO2 and lactic acid.


The byproducts of cellular respiration, carbon dioxide and water can be reused for photosynthesis, according to Worsleyschool.net.

Fun Fact

Producers, or plants, can produce ATP by combining inorganic compounds such as sulphur, hydrogen ammonia and sulphide through chemosynthesis, according to Worsleyschool.net.

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