Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

2015 Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) CleavesII, Daniele L. Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, Michel Viso


  • María Luz Cárdenas
  • Athel Cornish-Bowden
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-44185-5_963



Metabolism is the collection of chemical reactions that define a living organism and allow it to make its components and obtain the energy required for staying alive.


Recognition that the processes occurring in a living organism are fundamentally chemical reactions came progressively with the decline in vitalism in the nineteenth century. The discovery of cell-free fermentation by Eduard Buchner sounded the death knell of vitalism and the beginning of the unraveling of the major metabolic pathways that constitute metabolism. This process began with the understanding of  fermentation and  glycolysis, and by the end of the 1950s, virtually all the major pathways were known.


Although a living organism is identified and recognized by its physical appearance and hence by its structure, its status as living is defined by its chemistry and thus by its metabolism. This is a network of reactions that is responsible...


Compartmentation Enzymes Metabolic cascades Metabolic flux Organization Pathway Regulation 
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References and Further Reading

  1. Ginger ML, McFadden GI, Michels PAM (2010) Rewiring and regulation of cross-compartmentalized metabolism in protists. Phil Trans R Soc B 365:831–845CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Horton R, Moran LA, Scrimgeour G, Perry M (2005) Principles of biochemistry, 4th edn. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar
  3. Meléndez-Hevia E, Waddell TG, Cascante M (1996) The puzzle of the Krebs citric acid cycle: assembling the pieces of chemically feasible reactions, and opportunism in the design of metabolic pathways during evolution. J Mol Evol 43:293–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Salway JG (2004) Metabolism at a glance. Blackwell, MaldenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unité de Bioénergétique et Ingénierie des ProtéinesCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Aix-Marseille UniversitéMarseille Cedex 20France