If No Light Is Available, How Can a Plant Make ATP?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 25, 2020 3:33:34 AM ET

The mitochondria of plant cells convert stored glucose to ATP without the assistance of sunlight. Mitochondria, one of the organelles of the cell, has the ability to convert stored glucose into ATP until its glucose stores are depleted. Plants are unable to make adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, by photosynthesis if no sunlight is available. Because sunlight is crucial for the production of glucose, eventually sunlight is needed for continued production.


According to Nature, mitochondria produce ATP by passing a high-energy electron along an electron transport chain. The high amount of energy from this process pumps hydrogen out of the mitochondrial matrix. This creates a pressure gradient, which drives the hydrogen molecule back through the membrane. As this occurs, the hydrogen atom synthesizes, or bonds, with adenosine diphosphate to form ATP.

According to Colorado State University, the more sunlight a plant receives, the higher its photosynthetic rate. This indicates that plants that are not receiving sunlight at all are unable to complete the “light reactions” of photosynthesis, which are the photosynthetic reactions that use sunlight to create ATP. This stage converts light, or solar energy, into chemical energy. During the process, light hits the chloroplasts, which reside within the leaves of the plant. The green pigment, known as chlorophyll, absorbs the light energy. Then, the sunlight is converted into ATP and NADPH. Plants that are not receiving solar energy are unable to convert sunlight into ATP because sunlight is a requirement for the light reactions.