Letter | Published:

Placental production and foetal utilisation of lactate and pyruvate


APPROXIMATELY 75% of foetal oxygen consumption of sheep can be accounted for by the uptake of glucose from the umbilical circulation1–3 and catabolism of amino acids4. The contribution to foetal energy metabolism of exogenous long-chain fatty acids5 and fructose1 seems to be negligible. We report now that the placenta normally provides lactate for the foetus, in sufficient quantities to account for 25% of foetal oxidative metabolism. This finding invalidates the assumption that under normal physiological conditions there is a net flux of lactate from foetus to mother. The assumption seemed reasonable in the past because the concentration of lactate in foetal blood is greater than in maternal blood and because of the formerly prominent hypothesis that anaerobic metabolism is very active in foetal life.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Tsoulos, M. G., Colwill, J. R., Battaglia, F. C., Makowski, E. L., and Meschia, G., Am. J. Physiol., 221, 234–237 (1971).

  2. 2

    James, E. J., et al., Pediatrics, 50, 361–371 (1972).

  3. 3

    Boyd, R. D. H., Morriss, F. H., Meschia, G., Makowski, E. L., and Battaglia, F. C., Am. J. Physiol., 225, 897–902 (1973).

  4. 4

    Gresham, E. L., et al., Pediatrics, 50, 372–379 (1971).

  5. 5

    James, E. J., Meschia, G., and Battaglia, F. C., Proc. Soc. exp. Biol. Med., 138, 823–826 (1971).

  6. 6

    Meschia, G., Makowski, E. L., and Battaglia, F. C., Yale J. biol. Med., 42, 154–165 (1969–1970).

  7. 7

    Olsen, C., Clin. chim. Acta, 33, 293–300 (1971).

  8. 8

    Murphey, J. B., and Hawkins, J. A., J. gen. Physiol., 8, 115–130 (1925).

  9. 9

    Bell, B., Cunningham, L., Jowett, M., Millet, H., and Brooks, J., Br. med. J., 126–131 (1926).

  10. 10

    Loeser, A., Archs Gynak., 148, 118–148 (1932).

  11. 11

    Villee, C. A., J. biol. Chem., 205, 113–123 (1953).

  12. 12

    Ginsburg, J., and Jeacock, M., Am. J. Obstet. Gynec., 90, 794–799 (1964).

  13. 13

    Fieller, E. C., Q. Jl. Pharm., 17, 117–123 (1944).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.