Lactate and pH in the brain: association and dissociation in different pathophysiological states

J Neurochem. 1987 Jan;48(1):154-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.1987.tb13140.x.


Brain tissue pH and lactate content were measured in rats under three different experimental conditions, namely: during complete global cerebral ischemia; after reversible near-complete cerebral ischemia; and in experimental brain tumors. At the end of the experiments brains were frozen with liquid nitrogen. A series of 20-microns thick coronal sections was prepared in a cryostat and then used for the regional determination of tissue pH (umbelliferone technique) and tissue lactate (bioluminescent technique). In addition, tissue samples were taken for the quantitative measurement of brain lactate (enzymatic fluorometric technique). The relationship between lactate content and tissue pH was different for each of the three experimental models studied: only after short-term global cerebral ischemia did an increase in the lactate content correlate with a decrease in tissue pH (r = 0.94; p less than 0.001). A highly significant increase in the lactate content (p less than 0.001) was accompanied by physiological pH values (6.96 +/- 0.08 in comparison to 6.97 +/- 0.04 in controls) during recirculation after transient cerebral ischemia and in brain tumors even by an alkaline pH shift. In view of these observations the term "lactacidosis" should not be used without measuring both the lactate content and the pH. The observed dissociation between pH and lactate is due to the fact that both parameters are regulated independently. During anaerobiosis the main source of proton production is ATP hydrolysis rather than glycolysis. It is, therefore, suggested that the terms "acidosis" and "lactosis" should be used instead of "lactacidosis."

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / metabolism*
  • Lactates / metabolism*
  • Lactic Acid
  • Rats


  • Lactates
  • Lactic Acid