Lactate transport in skeletal muscle - role and regulation of the monocarboxylate transporter

J Physiol. 1999 Jun 15;517 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):633-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.1999.0633s.x.


Skeletal muscle is the major producer of lactic acid in the body, but its oxidative fibres also use lactic acid as a respiratory fuel. The stereoselective transport of L-lactic acid across the plasma membrane of muscle fibres has been shown to involve a proton-linked monocarboxylate transporter (MCT) similar to that described in erythrocytes and other cells. This transporter plays an important role in the pH regulation of skeletal muscle. A family of eight MCTs has now been cloned and sequenced, and the tissue distribution of each isoform varies. Skeletal muscle contains both MCT1 (the only isoform found in erythrocytes but also present in most other cells) and MCT4. The latter is found in all fibre types, although least in more oxidative red muscles such as soleus, whereas expression of MCT1 is highest in the more oxidative muscles and very low in white muscles that are almost entirely glycolytic. The properties of MCT1 and MCT2 have been described in some detail and the latter shown to have a higher affinity for substrates. MCT4 has been less well characterized but has a lower affinity for L-lactate (i.e. a higher Km of 20 mM) than does MCT1 (Km of 5 mM). MCT1 expression is increased in response to chronic stimulation and either endurance or explosive exercise training in rats and humans, whereas denervation decreases expression of both MCT1 and MCT4. The mechanism of regulation is not established, but does not appear to be accompanied by changes in mRNA concentrations. However, in other cells MCT1 and MCT4 are intimately associated with an ancillary protein OX-47 (also known as CD147). This protein is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily with a single transmembrane helix, whose expression is known to be increased in a range of cells when their metabolic activity is increased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Lactates / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Lactates
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Recombinant Proteins