We studied the role played by lactate as an important substrate for the brain during the perinatal period. Under these circumstances, lactate is the main substrate for brain development and is used as a source of energy and carbon skeletons. In fact, lactate is used actively by brain cells in culture. Neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes use lactate as a preferential substrate for both energy purposes and as precursor of lipids. Astrocytes use lactate and other metabolic substrates for the synthesis of oleic acid, a new neurotrophic factor. Oligodendrocytes mainly use lactate as precursor of lipids, presumably those used to synthesize myelin. Neurons use lactate as a source of energy and as precursor of lipids. During the perinatal period, neurons may use blood lactate directly to meet the need for the energy and carbon skeletons required for proliferation and differentiation. During adult life, however, the lactate used by neurons may come from astrocytes, in which lactate is the final product of glycogen breakdown. It may be concluded that lactate plays an important role in brain development.
(c) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.