Question 8

Describe the production, metabolism and role of lactate.

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College Answer

Better answers used the categorisation in the question as a structure for their answer. Many candidates gave a good description of lactate production from glycolysis, increasing with accumulation of NADH and pyruvate, when these are unable to enter Krebs cycle. There were however, many vague and incorrect descriptions as to what lactate is and its physiological role. Many candidates suggested that its presence is abnormal or pathological. Most answers demonstrated a superficial understanding and physiological detail of lactate’s role as an energy currency in times of oxygen debt. Higher scoring candidates often mentioned non-hypoxic causes of pyruvate accumulation which include; circulating catecholamines, exercise, sepsis or lack or mitochondria (RBCs). Mention of the relative ATP production of the two fates of pyruvate was also noted in more complete answers. The Cori cycle was generally superficially described. A key role of lactate is the ‘lactate sink’, allowing a period of ongoing ATP production from glycolysis when cells become oxygen deplete or the Kreb’s cycle is inhibited; few candidates detailed or highlighted this.