Main Difference – Fermentation vs Respiration
Fermentation and respiration are two types of cellular processes, involved in the breaking down of glucose in the cell. Both fermentation and respiration are catabolic processes, generating energy in the form of ATP. The main difference between fermentation and respiration is that during fermentation, NADH is not used in the oxidative phosphorylation in order to generate ATP whereas, during respiration, NADH is used in the oxidative phosphorylation in order to generate three ATPs per NADH.
This article looks at,
1. What is Fermentation
– Characteristics, Process
2. What is Respiration
– Characteristics, Process
3. What is the Difference Between Fermentation and Respiration
What is Fermentation
Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of organic substrates like glucose by microorganisms like bacteria and yeast, typically giving off effervescence and heat. It occurs in microorganisms like some bacteria, yeast, and parasitic worms. Fermentation is localized in the cytoplasm of those organisms’ cells. The net yield of fermentation is only 2 ATPs. The process of fermentation occurs in two steps: glycolysis and partial oxidization of pyruvate.
There are two types of fermentation known as ethanol fermentation and lactic acid fermentation. Ethanol fermentation occurs in yeast in the absence of oxygen. Hence, they are called facultative anaerobes. Lactic acid fermentation occurs in bacteria. In the absence of oxygen, animals also produce lactic acid mainly in their muscles. Lactic acid is toxic to tissues. Glycolysis is same for both fermentations. During glycolysis, glucose is broken down into two pyruvate molecules, generating 2 ATPs as the net gain. Other than that, two molecules of NADH are formed by obtaining electrons from glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. During ethanol fermentation, pyruvate is decarboxylated into acetaldehyde by removing carbon dioxide. Acetaldehyde is converted into ethanol by using the hydrogen atoms of the NADH. The effervescence occurs due to the releasing of carbon dioxide gas into the medium by the cells in the medium. During lactic acid fermentation, pyruvate is converted into lactic acid, which is then oxidized into lactate. The overall chemical reaction for ethanol fermentation and lactic acid fermentation are given below.
C6H12O6 → 2C2H5OH + 2CO2 + 2ATP
Lactic Acid Fermentation:
C6H12O6 → 2C3H6O3 + 2ATP
What is Respiration
Respiration is the set of chemical reactions involved in the production of energy by completely oxidizing food. It releases carbon dioxide and water as by-products. Respiration is the most abundant and most efficient process among the processes of energy production. It occurs in higher plants and animals who are using complex cellular processes with high energy consumptions. During respiration, 36 ATPs are produced. The whole process occurs in the cytoplasm and mitochondria.
Respiration occurs through three steps: glycolysis, citric acid cycle and electron transport chain. Glycolysis occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell in the same way it occurs during fermentation. The two pyruvate molecules produced in the glycolysis is transferred into the mitochondrial matrix. They release two carbon dioxide molecules, one from each and become acetyl-CoA during oxidative decarboxylation. This acetyl-CoA enters into the citric acid cycle, which is also known as Krebs cycle. During the citric acid cycle, a single glucose molecule is completely oxidized into six carbon dioxide molecules, generating 2 GTPs, 6 NADH and 2 FADH2. These NADH and FADH2 are combined with oxygen, generating ATP during oxidative phosphorylation, which occurs in the inner mitochondrial membrane. During the oxidative phosphorylation, electrons in NADH and FADH2 are transferred through a series of electron carriers called electron transport chain. The net yield of ATPs is thirty six in respiration. The overall chemical reaction is shown below.
C6H12O6 + 6O2 → 6CO2 + 6H2O + 36ATP
Difference Between Fermentation and Respiration
Fermentation: Fermentation is the chemical breakdown of an organic substrate like glucose by microorganisms like bacteria and yeast, typically giving off effervescence and heat.
Respiration: Respiration is the set of chemical reactions involved in the production of energy by completely oxidizing food. It releases carbon dioxide and water as by-products.
Fermentation: Oxygen is not required for fermentation.
Respiration: Oxygen is required for respiration.
Fermentation: No water is produced during fermentation.
Respiration: Water is produced as a by-product during respiration.
Fermentation: Fermentation occurs in the cytoplasm.
Respiration: Respiration occurs in cytoplasm and mitochondria.
Net yield of ATP
Fermentation: Fermentation generates only two ATPs by the breaking down of a single glucose molecule.
Respiration: Respiration generates 36 ATPs by the breaking down of a single glucose molecule.
Fermentation: The substrate, glucose is not completely broken down during fermentation.
Respiration: The substrate, glucose is completely broken down during respiration.
Fermentation: Ethanol fermentation and lactic acid fermentation are the two types of fermentations found in organisms.
Respiration: Aerobic and anaerobic respiration are two types of respiration found in organisms.
Final Electron Acceptor
Fermentation: Final electron acceptor in fermentation is an organic molecule, usually acetaldehyde in ethanol fermentation and pyruvate in lactic acid fermentation.
Respiration: Final electron acceptor is mainly oxygen.
Fermentation: Ethanol fermentation generates ethanol and carbon dioxide. Lactic acid fermentation generates lactic acid as the end product.
Respiration: Respiration generates inorganic end products, carbon dioxide, and water.
Fermentation: No ATP is produced during the regeneration of NAD+ in fermentation.
Respiration: Three ATPs are generated during the regeneration of NAD+ in respiration.
Fermentation: No oxidative phosphorylation occurs during fermentation.
Respiration: In respiration, ATPs are generated from NADH and FADH2 through oxidative phosphorylation.
Type of Organism
Fermentation: Fermentation is usually found in microorganisms like yeast.
Respiration: Respiration is found in higher organisms.
Fermentation: Fermentation has a less contribution in the production of energy for the cellular processes on earth.
Respiration: Respiration has the highest contribution in the production of energy for the cellular processes on earth.
Fermentation and respiration are two processes involved in the catabolism of organic substrates which are used as food during the production of energy required by the cellular processes. During fermentation and respiration, the potential energy stored in organic molecules are converted into kinetic chemical energy in the form of ATP. Both processes begin with glycolysis, resulting in two pyruvate molecules. Glycolysis occurs in the cytoplasm of all cells on earth. Oxygen is not involved in the glycolysis. But in the presence of oxygen, pyruvate in the cytoplasm enters into the mitochondrial matrix in order to undergo citric acid cycle, which completely oxidizes pyruvate. This complete oxidization only occurs in respiration. NADH and FADH2 are also produced by the citric acid cycle. They are reduced by oxidative phosphorylation in the inner membrane of the mitochondria. In contrast, fermentation occurs in the absence of oxygen, incompletely oxidizing pyruvate either into ethanol or lactate. During ethanol fermentation, pyruvate is converted into acetaldehyde, which is then converted into ethanol. The NADH produced in the glycolysis of fermentation, donates its electrons to acetaldehyde while regeneration. Therefore, the main difference between fermentation and respiration is the ability to produce ATP during the regeneration process of NAD+.
1. Cooper, Geoffrey M. “Metabolic Energy.” The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
2. Jurtshuk, Peter, and Jr. “Bacterial Metabolism.” Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Jan. 1996. Web. 07 Apr. 2017.
1. “Heterofermentative Milchsäuregärung” By Yikrazuul – Own work via
2. “By Darekk2 – Own work via