Skip to main content
Log in


Link Between Glycolytic and Oxidative Metabolism

Sports Medicine Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Cite this article


Once thought to be the consequence of oxygen lack in contracting skeletal muscle, the glycolytic product lactate is formed and utilised continuously under fully aerobic conditions. ‘Cell-cell’ and ‘intracellular lactate shuttle’ concepts describe the roles of lactate in delivery of oxidative and gluconeogenic substrates as well as in cell signalling. Examples of cell-cell shuttles include lactate exchanges (i) between white-glycolytic and red-oxidative fibres within a working muscle bed; (ii) between working skeletal muscle and heart; and (iii) between tissues of net lactate release and gluconeogenesis. Lactate shuttles exist in diverse tissues including in the brain, where a shuttle between astrocytes and neurons is linked to glutamatergic signalling. Because lactate, the product of glycogenolysis and glycolysis, is disposed of by oxidative metabolism, lactate shuttling unites the two major processes of cellular energy transduction. Lactate disposal is mainly through oxidation, especially during exercise when oxidation accounts for 70–75% of removal and gluconeogenesis the remainder. Lactate flux occurs down proton and concentration gradients that are established by the mitochondrial lactate oxidation complex. Marathon running is a power activity requiring high glycolytic and oxidative fluxes; such activities require lactate shuttling. Knowledge of the lactate shuttle is yet to be imparted to the sport.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Fletcher WM, Hopkins FG. Lactic acid in amphibian muscle. J Physiol 1907; 35: 247–309

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Brooks GA. Lactate: glycolytic end product and oxidative substrate during sustained exercise in mammals. The ‘Lactate Shuttle’. In Gilles R, editor. Circulation, respiration, and metabolism: current comparative approaches. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1985: 208–18

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  3. Brooks GA, Dubouchaud H, Brown M, et al. Role of mitochondrial lactic dehydrogenase and lactate oxidation in the ‘intracellular lactate shuttle. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1999; 96: 1129–34

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Pelleggn L, Pellegri G, Bittar PG, et al. Evidence supporting the existence of an activity-dependent astrocyte-neuron lactate shuttle. Dev Neurosci 1998; 20: 291–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Donovan CM, Brook GA. Endurance training affects lactate clearance, not lactate production. Am J Physiol 1983; 244: E83–92

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Bergman BC, Wolfel EE, Butterfield GE, et al. Active muscle and whole body lactate kinetics after endurance training in men. J Appl Physiol 1999; 87: 1684–96

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Dubouchaud H, Butterfield GE, Wolfed EE, et al. Endurance training, expression and physiology of LDH, MCT1 and MCT4 in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol 2000; 278: E571–9

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Hashimoto T, Hussien R, Brook GA. Colocalization of MCT1, CD147 and LDH in nutochondrial inner membrane of L6 cells: evidence of a nutochondrial lactate oxidation complex. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2006; 290: 123744

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hashimoto T, Masuda S, Taguchi S, et al. Immunohistochomical analysis of MCT1, MCT2 and MCT4 expression in rat plantaris muscle. J Physiol 2005; 567: 121–9

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Roth DA, Brook GA. Lactate and pyruvate transport is dominated using a pH gradient-sensitive carrier in rat skeletal muscle sarcolemmal vesicles. Arch Biochem Biophys 1990; 279: 386–94

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. O’Brien MJ, Viguie CA, Mazzeo RS, et al. Carbohydrate dependence during marathon running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993; 25: 1009–17

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work supported by National Institute of Health grants AR42906 and AR50459. The author has indicated that he has no affiliation or financial interest in any organisation(s) that may have a direct interest in the subject matter of this article.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to George A. Brooks.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Brooks, G.A. Lactate. Sports Med 37, 341–343 (2007).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: