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The Calvin cycle may be divided into 3 steps.
Step 1: Carbon Fixation. This phase begins when a carbon dioxide molecule is attached to a 5 carbon sugar, ribulose biphosphate (RuBP).
This reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme RuBP carboxylase (rubisco) one of the most abundant proteins on earth.
The products of this reaction is an unstable 6 carbon compound that immediately splits into 2 molecules of 3-phosphoglycerate.
For every 3 molecules of carbon dioxide that enter the cycle via rubisco, 3 RuBP molecules are carboxylated forming 6 molecules of 3-phosphoglycerate.
Step 2: Reduction. This endergonic reduction phase is a 2 step process that couples ATP hydrolysis with the reduction of 3-phosphoglycerate to glyceraldehyde phosphate.
An enzyme phosphorylates (adds a phosphate) 3-phosphoglycerate by transferring a phosphate from the ATP. The product is 1-3-bisphosphoglycerate.
Electrons from the NADPH reduce the carboxyl group of the 1-3-bisphosphoglycerate to the aldehyde group of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate.
For every three carbon dioxide molecules that enter the Calvin cycle, 6 glyceraldehyde-3-phosphates are produced, only one can be counted as a net gain. The other 5 are used to regenerate 3 molecules of RuBP.
Step 3: Regeneration of RuBP. A complex series of reactions rearranges the carbon skeletons of 5 glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate molecules into 3 RuBP molecules.
These reactions require 3 ATP molecules.
RuBP is thus regenerated to begin the cycle again.