Difference Between Aerobic Glycolysis and Anaerobic Glycolysis (With Table)

One of the imminent functions that happen inside any living organism is Cellular Respiration, and the first step in this procedure is glycolysis. It is one of the core functions that gets done each day.

Glycolysis is when glucose breaks down. There are two processes of glycolysis that occurs in all living organism. The two processes, in general, are identified as aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis. Both process often sounds a tad bit similar, but they are very distinctive in how they happen.

Aerobic Glycolysis vs Anaerobic Glycolysis

The main difference between aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis is that aerobic glycolysis helps in the oxidation of pyruvate. On the other hand, anaerobic glycolysis helps in the reduction of pyruvate. 

Difference Between Aerobic Glycolysis and Anaerobic Glycolysis

Aerobic glycolysis is a process that happens more efficiently when oxygen is present. Moreover, it occurs in the cytosol. Aerobic glycolysis leads to the generation of pyruvate, which is then further used for the stimulating citric acid cycle.

It is the cytoplasm where anaerobic glycolysis happens. Anaerobic glycolysis has a chance of happening when there is a lack of oxygen. Due to anaerobic glycolysis, the pyruvate gets transformed into lactate. Since anaerobic glycolysis can produce lactate, it is a leading factor in enzymes inactivation.

Comparison Table Between Aerobic Glycolysis and Anaerobic Glycolysis

Parameters of ComparisonAerobic GlycolysisAnaerobic Glycolysis
DefinitionAerobic glycolysis is a step-by-step process that aims at reoxidizing NADH to NAD+ with the help of oxygen.Anaerobic glycolysis is a pathway to convert glucose into lactate.
Importance of oxygenAerobic glycolysis is only possible due to oxygen being present.Anaerobic glycolysis can happen even if oxygen is absent. Hence, oxygen is not entirely necessary for the process of anaerobic glycolysis.
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) productionAerobic glycolysis can produce almost 38 ATPs in one glucose molecule.Anaerobic glycolysis produces a maximum of 2 ATPs in one glucose molecule.
Place of occurrenceAerobic glycolysis occurs in any cell in the cytosol.Anaerobic glycolysis occurs in every cell in the cytoplasm.
End productThe by-product of aerobic glycolysis is Carbon dioxide and water.The by-product of anaerobic glycolysis is lactate.
Impact Aerobic glycolysis is seldom harmful to the cells.Anaerobic glycolysis can cause harm to the cells.

What is Aerobic Glycolysis?

Aerobic glycolysis is another name for aerobic fermentation. It is an essential process that leads to aerobic respiration. However, oxygen plays an imminent role in aerobic glycolysis, as it can happen only when oxygen is present. Also, aerobic glycolysis is known to exist only in eukaryotic cells.

When aerobic glycolysis happens in yeast, it is called the “Crabtree Effect.” Similarly, in tumor or cancer cells, the process of aerobic glycolysis is also called the “Warburg Effect.”

The main step in aerobic glycolysis includes the Krebs cycle. It also includes oxidative phosphorylation. The process starts when hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms bond together. 

The bond then helps in the energy exchange, which is possible when glucose breaks down. Aerobic glycolysis produces more ATPs than anaerobic glycolysis. In general, aerobic glycolysis can produce about 30 to 38 ATPs.

As aerobic glycolysis starts, a single glucose molecule breaks down into pyruvate molecules. The molecules of pyruvate then get converted into Acetyl Coenzyme A.

With that, aerobic glycolysis also leads to proliferating cells that further lead to the conversion of nutrients. Due to aerobic glycolysis, glutamine and glucose effectively get converted without catabolic oxidation. 

Preservation of carbon-carbon atoms becomes possible only in aerobic glycolysis. This preservation also supports anabolism. Besides, aerobic glycolysis is the process that can happen during any activity, even if it lasts for 30 seconds.

What is Anaerobic Glycolysis?

Unlike aerobic glycolysis, anaerobic glycolysis does not need oxygen to happen. Anaerobic glycolysis always leads to the occurrence of anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration is sub-divided into two types. One is ethanol fermentation, and the other is lactic acid fermentation.

Under ethanol fermentation, the yeast and other anaerobic organism transform the glucose. At first, the glucose converts into pyruvate, which transforms into acetaldehyde. The resulting product of this reaction is ethanol and carbon dioxide. 

During the lactic acid fermentation process, oxygen is not present. Hence, NAD+ is created as pyruvate reduces to lactate. 

In a cell, anaerobic glycolysis will happen in the cytoplasm. Besides, anaerobic glycolysis is a process that occurs in eukaryotic cells and also in prokaryotic cells. Once the process of anaerobic glycolysis starts, the result is lactate production. 

Anaerobic glycolysis is an essential process as it is how energy is produced even when oxygen is at a high concentration. The core cycle helps the lactate to transform back into glucose in mammals.

Main Differences Between Aerobic Glycolysis and Anaerobic Glycolysis

  1. Aerobic glycolysis can only take place in eukaryotic cells. On the other hand, anaerobic glycolysis occurs in eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.
  2. Aerobic glycolysis cannot occur without oxygen. On the other hand, anaerobic glycolysis does not need oxygen to process further.
  3. In aerobic glycolysis, the pyruvate converts into acetyl coenzyme A. On the other hand, when anaerobic glycolysis takes place, pyruvate forms. Then it transforms into lactate.
  4. Aerobic glycolysis tends to produce large numbers of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). On the other hand, anaerobic glycolysis cannot produce such numbers of ATP. Anaerobic glycolysis can help produce 2 ATPs in one molecule of glucose.
  5. Aerobic glycolysis processes further with the help of the Krebs cycle. On the other hand, anaerobic glycolysis happens further into ethanol or lactic acid fermentation.
  6. Aerobic glycolysis gives the end product water and carbon dioxide. On the other hand, aerobic glycolysis churns out the end product lactate.


Both aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis are the processing of glucose that is available in a cell. The glucose then breaks down into other elements. After the glucose breaks down, both process happens differently. 

Both processes happen in different parts of the cell. Also, the reactions occurring during aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis are very different. Finally, the results are different. One produces water and CO2, while the other produces lactate.

Aerobic and anaerobic glycolysis are extremely important stepss towards cell respiration.


  1. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/403868/summary
  2. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/bi00349a030
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