Bilirubin Metabolism

Bilirubin is a metabolite of heme. It serves as a means to excrete unwanted heme, which is derived from various heme-containing proteins such as hemoglobin, myoglobin, and various P450 enzymes. Bilirubin is also notable for providing the color to bile, stool, and to a lesser extent the urine. Its produced by a two-stage reaction that occurs in cells of the RES (reticuloendothelial system). The RES includes the phagocytes, mainly being the macrophages, the Kupffer cells in the liver and the cells in the spleen and bone. Heme is taken up into these cells and acted on by the enzyme heme oxygenase, liberating the chelated iron from the heme structure and releasing carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide is excreted via the lungs. The reaction yields a green pigment known as biliverdin. Biliverdin is then acted on by the enzyme biliverdin reductase which produces bilirubin. Bilirubin consists of a yellow pigment. Bilirubin is derived from two main sources. The majority, about 80% comes from heme which is released from senescent red blood cells. The other 20% originates from other heme-containing proteins found in the liver and muscles.

Synthesis

Bilirubin is toxic to tissues, therefore it is transported in the blood in its unconjugated form bound to albumin. For that reason, only a small amount of the free form is present in the blood. If the free fraction increases, bilirubin with invade and cause damage to the tissues. Excess unconjugated bilirubin can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause kernicterus in neonates. The unconjugated bilirubin is taken up by hepatocytes where the albumin bond is broken. Inside the hepatocyte, the bilirubin is bound to cytoplasmic proteins ligandins and Z proteins. The primary function of these proteins is too prevent the reflux of bilirubin back into the circulatory system. Unconjugated bilirubin is lipophilic. Its conjugation with glucuronic acid renders it hydrophilic, therefore it can be eliminated utilizing bile. Conjugated bilirubin synthesis occurs in a two step reaction. First glucuronic acid is synthesized from cytosolic glucose which then attaches to uridinediphosphate (UDP) via the enzyme UDP-glucose-dehydrogenase. This forms UDP-glucuronic acid. This compound has an affinity for bilirubin for which then the glucuronic acid is transferred to the bilirubin which is catalyzed by glucuronyl transferase. Conjugation of bilirubin takes place in the endoplasmic reticulum of the hepatocytes and the end result is an ester between the glurcuronic acid and one or both of the propionic side-chains of bilirubin.

Pathways in bilirubin metabolism

Metabolism

Once bilirubin is conjugated it is excreted with bile acid into the small intestine. The bile acid is reabsorbed in the terminal ileum for enterohepatic circulation, the conjugated bilirubin is not absorbed and instead passes into the colon. In the colon, the bacteria metabolize the bilirubin into urobilinogen, which can be oxidized to form urobilin, and stercobilin. Urobilin is excreted by the kidneys to give urine its yellow color and stercobilin is excreted in the feces giving stool its characteristic brown color. There can be traces levels of urobilinogen present in the blood.

Toxicity

Unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia in a neonate can lead to an accumulation of unconjugated bilirubin in the brain tissue. The neurological disorder is called kernicterus. The blood-brain barrier is not yet fully developed and bilirubin can freely pass into the brain interstitium. In cases of liver impairment, biliary drainage is blocked, and some of the conjugated bilirubin leaks into the urine, turning it a dark amber color. In cases of hemolytic anemia, there is increased hemolysis of red cells causing an increase in unconjugated bilirubin in the blood. In these cases, there is no problem with the livers mechanism to conjugate the bilirubin, and there will be an increase in urobilinogen in the urine. This is the difference between an increased urine bilirubin, and an increased urine urobilinogen.

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Glycolysis

Glycolysis is the first phase of a series of reactions for the catabolism of carbohydrates. Catabolism is the breakdown of larger molecules into its respective smaller constituents. Glycolysis is the first part of cellular respiration that generates pyruvate to be used in either anaerobic respiration in the absence of oxygen or in the TCA cycle in aerobic respiration which yields useable energy for cells. This will be a general outline of the steps in glycolysis.

The whole process can be broken down into an energy investment phase where ATP is being used and an energy payoff phase where ATP is being generated. Fructose-1,6-biphosphate is where the energy investment phase ends. That is where the last ATP has to be used for energy to drive glycolysis.

A simple equation can be remembered as a summary of glycolysis.

Glucose + 2 ADP + 2 phosphate ions + 2 NAD+ —-> 2 Pyruvate + 2 ATP + 2 NADH + 2 H20 + 2 H+.

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In the first step of glycolysis an addition of a high energy phosphate from ATP yields glucose-6-phosphate and ADP. This step is initialized by the enzyme hexokinase. G6P is more reactive than glucose.

In the next step, glucose-6-phosphate is converted to its isomer, fructose-6-phosphate by phosphoglucose isomerase.

In the third step of glycolysis, fructose-6-phosphate is converted to fructose-1,6-biphosphate by phosphofructokinase (PFK) and the addition of ATP. This is the committed step, meaning that fructose-1,6-biphosphate MUST be converted to pyruvate. This is also the end of the energy investment phase of glycolysis.

Fructose-1,6-biphosphate is converted to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3P) and dihydroxyacetone phosphate catalyzed by aldolase. Glyceraldehyde-3 phosphate maintains a reversible reaction with dihydroxyacetone phosphate through triode phosphate isomerase. The resulting reaction generates two molecules of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. A key point going forward is that two molecules of each substrate are produced.

Each G3P molecule gains an inorganic phosphate and with the addition of NAD+ to form the energized carrier molecules NADH. The resulting reaction catalyzed by glyeraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase generates two molecules of 1,3-bisphophoglycerate which yield two high energy phosphates.

Through the addition of two low energy ADP molecules and the enzyme phosphoglycerate kinase, the two molecules of 1,3-bisphophoglycerate are converted to 3-phosphoglycerate and yields two molecules of ATP. This reaction is called the break even reaction because at this point the energy input is equal to the energy output. Two molecules of ATP were expended and at this step there was a generation of two ATP molecules.

In the next step the two molecules of 3-phosphoglyercate are converted to 2-phosphoglycerate through the enzymatic properties of phosphoglycerate mutase.

The molecules of 2-phosphoglycerate are converted to phosphoenolpyruvate catalyzed by enolase. This step yields H20 molecules.

In the final step of glycolysis, the molecules of phosphoenolpyruvate are converted to pyruvate catalyzed by pyruvate kinase. ATP is generated from the addition of ADP and the two high energy phosphates from the molecules of phosphoenolpyruvate.

Upon the completion of glycolysis, the pyruvate molecules can be oxidized to carbon dioxide in cellular respiration to generate 28 molecules of ATP.

The NADH that is produced is turned back into NAD+ to drive further glycolysis. There are two ways to accomplish this. In the presence of oxygen NADH passes it electrons into the electron transport chain, which regenerates NAD+ for use in glycolysis. In the absence of oxygen, cells regenerate NAD+ by undergoing fermentation.