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Pyruvate Decarboxylation
Once the pyruvate makes its way into the matrix of the mitochondrion, it must undergo a process called pyruvate decarboxylation that is catalyzed by an enzyme complex called the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. In this process, an acetyl group of pyruvate is transferred onto a carrier molecule called coenzyme A. In the process, a carbon dioxide molecule is released and two electrons are abstracted and placed onto nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. Although this process seems relatively simple, it actually requires four different steps. The first two steps are catalyzed by pyruvate dehydrogenase; it involves a decarboxylation reaction followed by an oxidation-reduction reaction. The end product of the first two steps is acetyl lipoamide. In the third step, which is catalyzed by dihydrolipoyl transacetylase, the acetyl group is transferred from the lipoamide and onto coenzyme A. This step produces the acetyl-CoA complex. The final step is catalyzed by dihydrolipoyl dehydrogenase and it regenerates the lipoamide coenzyme and produces the NADH molecule.
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