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.
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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.