Lactate as substrate for mitochondrial respiration in alveolar epithelial type II cells

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2015 May 1;308(9):L953-61. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00335.2014. Epub 2015 Mar 6.


Because of the many energy-demanding functions they perform and their physical location in the lung, alveolar epithelial type II (ATII) cells have a rapid cellular metabolism and the potential to influence substrate availability and bioenergetics both locally in the lung and throughout the body. A thorough understanding of ATII cell metabolic function in the healthy lung is necessary for determining how metabolic changes may contribute to pulmonary disease pathogenesis; however, lung metabolism is poorly understood at the cellular level. Here, we examine lactate utilization by primary ATII cells and the ATII model cell line, MLE-15, and link lactate consumption directly to mitochondrial ATP generation. ATII cells cultured in lactate undergo mitochondrial respiration at near-maximal levels, two times the rates of those grown in glucose, and oxygen consumption under these conditions is directly linked to mitochondrial ATP generation. When both lactate and glucose are available as metabolic substrate, the presence of lactate alters glucose metabolism in ATII to favor reduced glycolytic function in a dose-dependent manner, suggesting that lactate is used in addition to glucose when both substrates are available. Lactate use by ATII mitochondria is dependent on monocarboxylate transporter (MCT)-mediated import, and ATII cells express MCT1, the isoform that mediates lactate import by cells in other lactate-consuming tissues. The balance of lactate production and consumption may play an important role in the maintenance of healthy lung homeostasis, whereas disruption of lactate consumption by factors that impair mitochondrial metabolism, such as hypoxia, may contribute to lactic acid build-up in disease.

Keywords: hypoxia; metabolism; mitochondrial function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Respiration
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glycolysis
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / biosynthesis
  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Symporters / biosynthesis
  • Symporters / metabolism


  • Monocarboxylic Acid Transporters
  • Symporters
  • monocarboxylate transport protein 1
  • Lactic Acid
  • Carbon
  • Glucose