Research Article: Understanding D-Ribose and Mitochondrial Function

Date Published: May 10, 2018


Author(s): Diane E. Mahoney, John B. Hiebert, Amanda Thimmesch, John T. Pierce, James L. Vacek, Richard L. Clancy, Andrew J. Sauer, Janet D. Pierce.


Mitochondria are important organelles referred to as cellular powerhouses for their unique properties of cellular energy production. With many pathologic conditions and aging, mitochondrial function declines, and there is a reduction in the production of adenosine triphosphate. The energy carrying molecule generated by cellular respiration and by pentose phosphate pathway, an alternative pathway of glucose metabolism. D-ribose is a naturally occurring monosaccharide found in the cells and particularly in the mitochondria is essential in energy production. Without sufficient energy, cells cannot maintain integrity and function. Supplemental D-ribose has been shown to improve cellular processes when there is mitochondrial dysfunction. When individuals take supplemental D-ribose, it can bypass part of the pentose pathway to produce D-ribose-5-phosphate for the production of energy. In this article, we review how energy is produced by cellular respiration, the pentose pathway, and the use of supplemental D-ribose.

Partial Text

Mitochondria are among the most important organelles in cells. They function as the cell powerhouse because 99% of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced within mitochondria, and ATP is the main energy source for intracellular metabolic pathways (1–3). Mitochondrial dysfunction can produce extreme fatigue and other symptoms that are common complaints among patients, especially those individuals with heart failure. The reduction in mitochondrial function at the cellular level is often associated with loss of both the electrical and chemical transmembrane potential, the alteration of the electron transport chain function, and diminished transport of mitochondrial metabolites needed for cellular function (2,4,5).

Mitochondria regulate a multitude of metabolic and signaling pathways, but their primary function is the production of ATP. When mitochondrial function is compromised, there can be a reduced efficiency of cellular respiration and thus a loss of ATP production. D-ribose is an ATP substrate naturally occurring within cells. When nucleotides are reduced, supplemental D-ribose has been shown to be useful in enhancing the recovery of these energy molecules. Thus, D-ribose supplementation may help to return adenine nucleotides to the cell and thereby serve as a potential therapeutic option for various pathophysiologic conditions.




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