What is the difference between ATP and NADPH

The main difference between ATP and NADPH is that hydrolysis of ATP releases energy, while oxidation of NADPH supplies electrons . In addition, ATP serves as the cell's main energy currency, while NADPH serves as a coenzyme with the reducing power required by the biochemical reactions.

ATP and NADPH are two types of adenosine nucleotides that are important in metabolic reactions. Both ATP and NADPH contain phosphate groups.

Key areas covered

1. What is ATP - definition, structure, role in the cell 2. What is NADPH - definition, structure, role in the cell 3. What are the similarities between ATP and NADPH - overview of the similarities 4. What is the difference between ATP and NADPH - comparison of the main differences

key terms

ATP, coenzyme, electrons, energy currency, NADPH, reducing agent

Difference Between ATP and NADPH - Comparative Summary

What is ATP

ATP ( adenosine triphosphate ) is the cell's most important energy currency. The synthesis of new biomolecules, cell division and movement utilize the energy produced by the hydrolysis of ATP. In addition, this either converts ATP to A. On the other hand, cellular respiration is the process responsible for the production of ATP. The organelle responsible for cell respiration in animals is the mitochondrion. Both bacteria and yeast produce ATP through fermentation. For example, photophosphorylation is the process that produces ATP in plants during photosynthesis .

What is the difference between ATP and NADPH

Figure 1: ATP structure

In addition, the ATP molecule consists of an adenosine group and three phosphate groups that are bound to a ribose sugar. Each phosphate group is bound to the core molecule via an oxygen atom. The first phosphate group attached to the ribose sugar is the alpha phosphate group, while the second or beta phosphate group is attached to the alpha phosphate group through a phosphoanhydride bond. The third phosphate group, on the other hand, is the gamma-phosphate group, which is bound to the beta-phosphate group via the same type of bond. The two phosphoanhydride bonds between phosphate groups are the high energy bonds that can be hydrolyzed to generate energy.

What is NADPH

NADPH is the reduced form of NADP (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate), which serves as a coenzyme in the redox reaction of photosynthesis. Since NADPH provides both electrons and protons to the chemical reaction, it is a powerful reducing agent. The light reaction of photosynthesis produces NADPH and the dark reaction uses this coenzyme. In animals, the pentose phosphate pathway is responsible for the production of NADPH.

Main difference - ATP and NADPH

Figure 2: NADPH function

NADPH differs from NADH in the presence of a phosphate group at the 2 'position of the ribose sugar. This phosphate group connects the adenine unit with the core molecule.

Similarities Between ATP and NADPH

  • ATP and NADPH are two types of adenine nucleotides that link biochemical reactions.
  • The ribose sugar forms the core of the two.
  • In addition, both molecules contain an adenine group.
  • In addition, both are phosphorylated.
  • In addition, both play a role in photosynthesis.

Difference Between ATP and NADPH


ATP refers to a phosphorylated nucleotide that consists of adenosine and three phosphate groups and at the same time provides energy for many biochemical, cellular processes through enzymatic hydrolysis, especially to ADP. In contrast, NADPH refers to a cofactor used to donate electrons and hydrogens to reactions catalyzed by some enzymes. Thus, these definitions contain the main difference between ATP and NADPH.

chemical formula

The chemical formula of ATP is C 10 H 16 N 5 O 13 P 3 while the chemical formula of NADPH is C 21 H 29 N 7 O 17 P 3 .


Another difference between ATP and NADPH is that ATP is the cell's energy currency, while NAPDH is the cell's main reducing power.


The synthetic pathway contributes to another difference between ATP and NADPH. Cellular respiration, photophosphorylation, and fermentation are the pathways that produce ATP, while the pentose phosphate pathway in animals and the light response of photosynthesis in plants are the pathways that produce NADPH.

purpose of use

ATP provides energy for various types of biochemical reactions, including anabolic reactions, cell division, and movement, while NADPH provides electrons and protons for the dark reaction of photosynthesis and many biosynthetic and redox reactions in animals. Hence, this is another difference between ATP and NADPH.


ATP is the cell's most important energy currency. Its hydrolysis releases energy that is needed for most of the biochemical reactions within the cell. On the other hand is NADPH is the main reduction power of the cell. It supplies both electrons and hydrogen atoms for biochemical reactions. Most importantly, NADPH is a cofactor. Thus, the main difference between ATP and NADPH is their role within the cell.


1. Bonora, Massimo, et al. “ATP Synthesis and Storage” Purinergic Signaling vol. 8.3 (2012): 343-57. Available here 2. Matsushima, Shouji et al. “Physiological and Pathological Functions of NADPH Oxidases During Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion” Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine vol. 24.5 (2014): 202-5. Available here

Image courtesy:

1. "Figure 06 04 01" By CNX OpenStax - ( CC BY 4.0 ) via Commons Wikimedia 2. "Figure 1. Overall reaction for the formation of superoxide from NADPH" By Marckhalaf - Own work ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ) via Commons Wikimedia

About the author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in molecular biology and biochemistry, is a molecular biologist and has a broad and strong interest in discovering things related to nature