Glucose and pyruvate metabolism in severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jan;112(1):42-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00599.2011. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


The mechanisms leading to weight loss in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are poorly understood but may involve alterations in macronutrient metabolism. Changes in muscle oxidative capacity and lactate production during exercise suggest glucose metabolism may be altered in COPD subjects. The objective of this study was to determine differences in the rates of glucose production and clearance, the rate of glycolysis (pyruvate production), and oxidative and nonoxidative pyruvate disposal in subjects with severe COPD compared with healthy controls. The in vivo rates of glucose production and clearance were measured in 14 stable outpatients with severe COPD (seven with low and seven with preserved body mass indexes) and 7 healthy controls using an intravenous infusion of [(2)H(2)]glucose. Additionally, pyruvate production and oxidative and non-oxidative pyruvate disposal were measured using intravenous infusions of [(13)C]bicarbonate and [(13)C]pyruvate. Endogenous glucose flux and glucose clearance were significantly faster in the combined COPD subjects (P = 0.002 and P < 0.001, respectively). This difference remained significant when COPD subjects were separated by body mass index. Pyruvate flux and oxidation were significantly higher in the combined COPD subjects than controls (P = 0.02 for both), but there was no difference in nonoxidative pyruvate disposal or plasma lactate concentrations between the two groups. In subjects with severe COPD, there are alterations in glucose metabolism leading to increased glucose production and faster glucose metabolism by glycolysis and oxidation compared with controls. However, no difference in glucose conversion to lactate via pyruvate reduction is observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*
  • Pyruvic Acid / metabolism*
  • Severity of Illness Index*


  • Pyruvic Acid
  • Glucose