LDH vs. Lactic Acid

What's the Difference?

LDH (lactate dehydrogenase) and lactic acid are closely related in terms of their role in the body's energy metabolism. LDH is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of pyruvate to lactate during anaerobic respiration, while lactic acid is the end product of this process. LDH is responsible for maintaining the balance between lactate production and clearance in various tissues, ensuring proper energy supply during intense exercise or in oxygen-deprived conditions. Lactic acid, on the other hand, can accumulate in the muscles and blood when the production exceeds the clearance rate, leading to muscle fatigue and acidosis. In summary, LDH is the enzyme that facilitates the production of lactic acid, which can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on the body depending on its concentration and clearance.


AttributeLDHLactic Acid
Chemical FormulaC27H46O3C3H6O3
StructureComplex protein structureSimple organic acid structure
FunctionInvolved in cellular respiration and energy productionProduced during anaerobic metabolism and causes muscle fatigue
EnzymeLactate dehydrogenaseN/A
ProductionProduced by various tissues, including liver, heart, and musclesProduced by muscles during intense exercise or low oxygen conditions
MetabolismMetabolized in the liver and excreted in urineMetabolized in the liver and converted back to glucose
Medical SignificanceElevated levels indicate tissue damage or diseaseUsed as a marker for anaerobic metabolism and lactate acidosis

Further Detail


LDH (Lactate Dehydrogenase) and lactic acid are two important components in the field of biochemistry. Both play crucial roles in various biological processes and have distinct attributes that make them unique. In this article, we will explore and compare the characteristics of LDH and lactic acid, shedding light on their functions, structures, and significance in different contexts.

LDH: Function and Structure

LDH is an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of pyruvate to lactate during anaerobic glycolysis. This process occurs in various tissues, including muscle, liver, and red blood cells. LDH is essential for energy production in cells when oxygen availability is limited. It helps regenerate NAD+ from NADH, allowing glycolysis to continue.

The structure of LDH consists of four subunits, which can be either H (heart) or M (muscle) types. The combination of these subunits results in five different isoenzymes: LDH-1 (HHHH), LDH-2 (HHHM), LDH-3 (HHMM), LDH-4 (HMMM), and LDH-5 (MMMM). Each isoenzyme has a different distribution in tissues, reflecting their specific physiological roles.

LDH is a tetrameric enzyme with a quaternary structure. Each subunit contains a binding site for NADH and pyruvate, allowing the catalytic reaction to occur. The active site of LDH is highly conserved across different species, indicating its fundamental role in cellular metabolism.

Lactic Acid: Production and Metabolism

Lactic acid, also known as lactate, is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. It is produced when pyruvate, generated during glycolysis, is converted to lactate by the enzyme LDH. This process occurs in various tissues, including skeletal muscle, red blood cells, and certain bacteria.

During intense exercise or in situations where oxygen supply is limited, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, leading to fatigue and discomfort. However, lactic acid is not solely a waste product. It can be utilized as an energy source by other tissues, such as the heart and liver, through a process called the Cori cycle.

The Cori cycle involves the conversion of lactate back to pyruvate in the liver, followed by gluconeogenesis to produce glucose. This glucose can then be released into the bloodstream and used as an energy source by other tissues. This cycle highlights the importance of lactic acid as a metabolic intermediate and its role in maintaining energy homeostasis.

LDH vs. Lactic Acid: Significance

LDH and lactic acid are closely interconnected, with LDH being the enzyme responsible for the production of lactic acid. The significance of LDH lies in its role in anaerobic metabolism, allowing cells to generate energy even in the absence of oxygen. Without LDH, the accumulation of pyruvate would inhibit glycolysis, leading to a halt in energy production.

Lactic acid, on the other hand, serves as an indicator of metabolic activity and can be used as a diagnostic tool. Elevated levels of lactic acid in the blood, known as lactic acidosis, can indicate various conditions, including sepsis, liver disease, or impaired oxygen delivery. Monitoring lactic acid levels can provide valuable insights into the patient's metabolic state and guide appropriate medical interventions.

LDH and Lactic Acid in Disease

LDH and lactic acid are associated with several diseases and conditions. For example, LDH levels are often elevated in various cancers, including lung, breast, and lymphoma. Increased LDH activity in cancer cells is linked to their high metabolic rate and increased glycolysis, known as the Warburg effect. Measuring LDH levels can aid in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring treatment response.

Lactic acidosis, characterized by high levels of lactic acid in the blood, can occur in conditions such as sepsis, heart failure, or liver disease. It can lead to symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and rapid breathing. Prompt identification and treatment of the underlying cause are crucial to prevent complications associated with lactic acidosis.


LDH and lactic acid are integral components of cellular metabolism and play vital roles in energy production and maintenance of metabolic homeostasis. LDH, as an enzyme, facilitates the conversion of pyruvate to lactate, allowing cells to generate energy under anaerobic conditions. Lactic acid, the product of this reaction, serves as an energy source for other tissues and can be used as a diagnostic marker for various diseases. Understanding the attributes of LDH and lactic acid provides valuable insights into cellular metabolism, disease processes, and potential therapeutic targets.

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