Anaerobic glycolysis is the process by which the normal pathway of glycolysis is routed to produce lactate. It occurs at times when energy is required in the absence of oxygen. It is vital for tissues with high energy requirements, insufficient oxygen supply or absence of oxidative enzymes.
The lack of oxygen results in a cellular paucity of oxidized NAD. In order to regenerate NAD, the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase converts pyruvate to lactate. NADH is oxidized in the process.
Lactate may diffuse out of the cell and pass to the liver where it is transformed into glucose; glucose is then capable of passing back to peripheral cells in order to re-enter glycolysis. The complete process is termed the Cori cycle.
Excessive lactic acid production can lead to lactic acidosis.
Last reviewed 01/2018