Respiration, cellular respiration can occur without oxygen. It is known as anaerobicrespiration and usesrespiratory electron transport chain. This chain performs its function through exogenous electron acceptor that allows the electron to pass through the system and must be present. In aerobic organisms oxygen is the final electron acceptor. In anaerobic organisms, Sulfate, Nitrate or Fumarate are used, these are relatively less efficient and have smaller reduction potential than O2; Oxygen indeed is highly oxidizing agent and releases lot of energy. Sulfate and Nitrate release less energy per oxidized molecule. Therefore, anaerobicrespirationis relatively less efficient, occurs in prokaryotic organisms that live in environment without O2.

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When Oxygen is not available, the cell is forced to produce energy (=ATP) through ANAEROBIC processes, that produce much less energy (about 15 times less), than AEROBIC processes.
The electron transport chain (ETC) allows the cell to produce energy (ATP) by creating a proton gradientacross the mitochondrial membrane.
During glycolisis and Kreb"s cycle NAD+ is transformed in NADH. In order for this processes to continue NAD+ needs to be replaced, and the ETC is, in the presence of oxygen, able to do that.
In this case pyruvate, instead of entering in the Kreb"s cycle, will be transformed in Lactate through the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase, and NAD+ will be produced:
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