Background: The rate at which cells acidify the extracellular medium is frequently used to report glycolytic rate, with the implicit assumption that conversion of uncharged glucose or glycogen to lactate(-)+H(+) is the only significant source of acidification. However, another potential source of extracellular protons is the production of CO2 during substrate oxidation: CO2 is hydrated to H2CO3, which then dissociates to HCO3(-)+H(+).
Methods: O2 consumption and pH were monitored in a popular platform for measuring extracellular acidification (the Seahorse XF Analyzer).
Results: We found that CO2 produced during respiration caused almost stoichiometric release of H(+) into the medium. With C2C12 myoblasts given glucose, respiration-derived CO2 contributed 34% of the total extracellular acidification. When glucose was omitted or replaced by palmitate or pyruvate, this value was 67-100%. Analysis of primary cells, cancer cell lines, stem cell lines, and isolated synaptosomes revealed contributions of CO2-produced acidification that were usually substantial, ranging from 3% to 100% of the total acidification rate.
Conclusion: Measurement of glycolytic rate using extracellular acidification requires differentiation between respiratory and glycolytic acid production.
General significance: The data presented here demonstrate the importance of this correction when extracellular acidification is used for quantitative measurement of glycolytic flux to lactate. We describe a simple way to correct the measured extracellular acidification rate for respiratory acid production, using simultaneous measurement of oxygen consumption rate.
Summary statement: Extracellular acidification is often assumed to result solely from glycolytic lactate production, but respiratory CO2 also contributes. We demonstrate that extracellular acidification by myoblasts given glucose is 66% glycolytic and 34% respiratory and describe a method to differentiate these sources.
Keywords: Bicarbonate; Carbon dioxide; Extracellular acidification rate; Extracellular flux; Glycolysis; Oxygen consumption rate.
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