Can lactate serve as an energy substrate for axons in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health?

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26 Scopus citations


In the mammalian white matter, glycogen-derived lactate from astrocytes plays a critical role in supporting axon function using the astrocyte-neuron lactate transfer shuttle (ANLTS) system with specialized monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs). A rapid breakdown of glycogen to lactate during increased neuronal activity or low glucose conditions becomes essential to maintain axon function. Therefore astrocytes actively regulate their glycogen stores with respect to ambient glucose levels such that high ambient glucose upregulates glycogen and low levels of glucose depletes glycogen stores. Although lactate fully supports axon function in the absence of glucose and becomes a preferred energy metabolite when axons discharge at high frequency, it fails to benefit axon function during an ischemic episode in white matter. Emerging evidence implies a similar lactate transport system between oligodendrocytes and the axons they myelinate, suggesting another metabolic coupling pathway in white matter. Therefore the conditions that activate this lactate shuttle system and the signaling mechanisms that mediate activation of this system are of great interest. Future studies are expected to unravel the details of oligodendrocyte-axon lactate metabolic coupling to establish how white matter components metabolically cooperate and that lactate may be the universal metabolite to sustain CNS function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-30
Number of pages6
JournalMetabolic brain disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Axon
  • D-lactate
  • End-feet
  • Oligodendrocytes
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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