Lactate is a preferential oxidative energy substrate over glucose for neurons in culture

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2003 Nov;23(11):1298-306. doi: 10.1097/01.WCB.0000091761.61714.25.


The authors investigated concomitant lactate and glucose metabolism in primary neuronal cultures using 13C- and 1H-NMR spectroscopy. Neurons were incubated in a medium containing either [1-13C]glucose and different unlabeled lactate concentrations, or unlabeled glucose and different [3-13C]lactate concentrations. Overall, 13C-NMR spectra of cellular extracts showed that more 13C was incorporated into glutamate when lactate was the enriched substrate. Glutamate 13C-enrichment was also found to be much higher in lactate-labeled than in glucose-labeled conditions. When glucose and lactate concentrations were identical (5.5 mmol/L), relative contributions of glucose and lactate to neuronal oxidative metabolism amounted to 21% and 79%, respectively. Results clearly indicate that when neurons are in the presence of both glucose and lactate, they preferentially use lactate as their main oxidative substrate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Citric Acid Cycle
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Lactates / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Lactates
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glucose