ASIC1a senses lactate uptake to regulate metabolism in neurons

Ivana Savic Azoulay, Xin Qi, Maya Rozenfeld, Fan Liu, Qin Hu, Tsipi Ben Kasus Nissim, Alexandra Stavsky, Michael X. Zhu, Tian Le Xu, Israel Sekler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lactate is a major metabolite largely produced by astrocytes that nourishes neurons. ASIC1a, a Na+ and Ca2+-permeable channel with an extracellular proton sensing domain, is thought to be activated by lactate through chelation of divalent cations, including Ca2+, Mg2+ and Zn2+, that block the channel pore. Here, by monitoring lactate-evoked H+ and Ca2+ transport in cultured mouse cortical and hippocampal neurons, we find that stereo-selective neuronal uptake of L-lactate results in rapid intracellular acidification that triggers H+ extrusion to activate plasma membrane ASIC1a channels, leading to propagating Ca2+ waves into the cytosol and mitochondria. We show that lactate activates ASIC1a at its physiological concentrations, far below that needed to chelate divalent cations. The L-isomer of lactate exerts a much greater effect on ASIC1a-mediated activity than the D-isomer and this stereo-selectivity arises from lactate transporters, which prefer the physiologically common L-lactate. The lactate uptake in turn results in intracellular acidification, which is then followed by a robust acid extrusion. The latter response sufficiently lowers the pH in the vicinity of the extracellular domain of ASIC1a to trigger its activation, resulting in cytosolic and mitochondrial Ca2+ signals that accelerate mitochondrial respiration. Furthermore, blocking ASIC1a led to a robust mitochondrial ROS production induced by L-lactate. Together our results indicate that ASIC1a is a metabolic sensor, which by sensing extracellular pH drop triggered by neuronal lactate uptake with subsequent proton extrusion, transmits a Ca2+ response that is propagated to mitochondria to enhance lactate catabolism and suppress ROS production.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102253
JournalRedox Biology
StatePublished - 1 May 2022


  • Acidification
  • ASIC1a
  • Cytosolic Ca signaling
  • Cytosolic Na signaling
  • Lactate
  • Mitochondrial Ca signaling
  • Mitochondrial Na signaling
  • NCLX

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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