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Mitochondrial Lactate Oxidation Complex and an Adaptive Role for Lactate Production


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: March 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 3 - p 486-494
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31815fcb04
BASIC SCIENCES: Integrative Physiology & Exercise

The intracellular lactate shuttle (ILS) hypothesis holds that lactate produced as the result of glycolysis and glycogenolysis in the cytosol is balanced by oxidative removal in mitochondria of the same cell. Also, the ILS is a necessary component of the previously described cell-cell lactate shuttle (CCLS), because lactate supplied from the interstitium and vasculature can be taken up and used in highly oxidative cells (red skeletal and cardiac myocytes, hepatocytes, and neurons). This ILS emphasizes the role of mitochondrial redox in creating the proton and lactate anion concentration gradients necessary for the oxidative disposal of lactate in the mitochondrial reticulum during exercise and other conditions. The hypothesis was initially supported by direct measurement of lactate oxidation in isolated mitochondria as well as findings of the existence of mitochondrial monocarboxylate transporters (mMCT) and lactate dehydrogenase (mLDH). Subsequently, the presence of a mitochondrial lactate oxidation complex (composed of mMCT1, CD147 (basigin), mLDH, and cytochrome oxidase (COX)) was discovered, which lends support to the presence of the ILS. Most recently, efforts have been made to evaluate the role of lactate as a cell-signaling molecule (i.e., a "lactormone") that is involved in the adaptive response to exercise. Lactate is capable of upregulating MCT1 and COX gene and protein expression. Current findings allow us to understand how lactate production during exercise represents a physiological signal for the activation of a vast transcription network affecting MCT1 protein expression and mitochondrial biogenesis, thereby explaining how training increases the capacity for lactate clearance via oxidation.

Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Editor's Note: This paper is an Editor-in-Chief-invited contribution from the ACSM's conference on Integrative Physiology on Exercise held in Indianapolis, Indiana, September 27-30, 2006.

Address for correspondence: George A. Brooks, Ph.D., Department of Integrative Biology, 5101 VLSB, University of California, Berkeley CA 94720-3140 USA; E-mail:

Submitted for publication May 2007.

Accepted for publication October 2007.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine