Respiration in micro-organisms is the process of releasing energy from food. There are two ways of doing so: Aerobic respiration occurs in the presence of oxygen and produces ATP from the complete oxidation of carbohydrates or fatty acids. Anaerobic respiration involves incomplete oxidation in the absence of oxygen. No matter the method, bacterial respiration is thought of as a continuous process that releases energy continuously. However, the word "continuous" is ambiguous.

My question is:

  • Is the respiration continuous without rest (e.g. DC signal) where the bacteria are releasing energy at every stage of the respiration process.


  • Is it alternating (Like human breathing (inhale & exhale)) where the bacterial cell produces energy during one stage of the respiration stages and takes a rest in a periodic rhythm (e.g. AC signal) before releasing energy again?
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Jul 8, 2022 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ The question is still lacking enough context to form a coherent answer. Like, in what setting are you interested in this problem? And on what scale? I suppose any reaction could be divided into discrete steps at atomic or molecular scales. Like, a single enzyme may only catalyze one reaction at a time, and then it has to release the product, change conformation, and bind a new substrate, which takes a non-zero amount of time. But in a cell each reaction might be happening millions or billions of times each second, asynchronously, such that the metabolic process is effectively continuous. $\endgroup$
    – MikeyC
    Jul 8, 2022 at 20:25
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    – tyersome
    Jul 17, 2022 at 0:53

1 Answer 1


"Respiration" in this context has nothing to do with breathing, it refers to cellular respiration. These are the chemical reactions that make ATP to be used in energy-requiring processes in the cell. Human cells do cellular respiration, too, and while we require breathing to replenish oxygen (and carry away carbon dioxide), this is not part of cellular respiration. Don't confuse them just because they have the same word in the name.

These processes occur more or less continuously in all cells; the rates can vary with conditions (for example, your muscle cells are going to do more cellular respiration when you run than when you sleep), but cellular respiration isn't breathing so don't expect it to be rhythmic the same way breathing is.


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