Lactic acid is an organic acid. It has a molecular formula CH3CH(OH)CO2H. It is white in solid state and it is extremely soluble in water. Solubilityis so high that 1 part of lactic acid can dissolve 12 parts of water. While in liquid state (dissolved state) it is a colorless solution. Production includes both artificial synthesis as well as natural sources. Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) due to the presence of carboxyl group adjacent to the hydroxyl group. It is used as a synthetic intermediate in many organic synthesis industries and in various biochemical industries. The conjugate base of lactic acid is called lactate.
In solution, it can ionize a proton from the carboxyl group, producing the lactate ion CH
2. Compared to acetic acid, its pKa is 1 unit less, meaning lactic acid is ten times more acidic than acetic acid. This higher acidity is the consequence of the intramolecular hydrogen bonding between the α-hydroxyl and the carboxylate group.
Lactic acid is chiral, consisting of two enantiomers. One is known as L-(+)-lactic acid or (S)-lactic acid and the other, its mirror image, is D-(−)-lactic acid or (R)-lactic acid. A mixture of the two in equal amounts is called DL-lactic acid, or racemic lactic acid. Lactic acid is hygroscopic. DL-lactic acid is miscible with water and with ethanol above its melting point, which is around 17 or 18 °C. D-lactic acid and L-lactic acid have a higher melting point. Lactic acid produced by fermentation of milk is often racemic, although certain species of bacteria produce solely (R)-lactic acid. On the other hand, lactic acid produced by anaerobic respiration in animal muscles has the S configuration and is sometimes called “sarcolactic” acid, from the Greek “sarx” for flesh.
In animals, L-lactate is constantly produced from pyruvate via the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) in a process of fermentation during normal metabolism and exercise. It does not increase in concentration until the rate of lactate production exceeds the rate of lactate removal, which is governed by a number of factors, including monocarboxylate transporters, concentration and isoform of LDH, and oxidative capacity of tissues. The concentration of blood lactate is usually 1–2 mM at rest, but can rise to over 20 mM during intense exertion and as high as 25 mM afterward. In addition to other biological roles, L-lactic acid is the primary endogenous agonist of hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 1 (HCA1), which is a Gi/o-coupled G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR).
In industry, lactic acid fermentation is performed by lactic acid bacteria, which convert simple carbohydrates such as glucose, sucrose, or galactoseto lactic acid. These bacteria can also grow in the mouth; the acid they produce is responsible for the tooth decay known as caries. In medicine, lactate is one of the main components of lactated Ringer’s solution and Hartmann’s solution. These intravenous fluids consist of sodiumand potassium cations along with lactate and chloride anions in solution with distilled water, generally in concentrations isotonic with human blood. It is most commonly used for fluid resuscitation after blood loss due to trauma, surgery, or burns.