Lactic acid fermentation

This animation focuses on one molecule of glucose turning into pyruvate then into lactic acid.In the process there is one 6 carbon glucose molecule and 2 NAD+ molecules. 2 phosphates attach to the ends of the glucose molecule, splitting the glucose molecule into 2 pyruvate molecules. The NAD+ molecules add another phosphate onto the open ends of the 2 pyruvate molecules, turning the 2 NAD+ into 2 NADP. Then ADP comes and takes the phosphates, creating 2 ATP molecules.The pyruvate is turned into 2 lactate molecules.The process then repeats, starting with another glucose molecule.

Lactic acid fermentation is a metabolic process by which glucose and other six-carbon sugars (also, disaccharides of six-carbon sugars, e.g. sucrose or lactose) are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate. It is an anaerobic fermentation reaction that occurs in some bacteria and animal cells, such as muscle cells.[1][2][3]

If oxygen is present in the cell, many organisms will bypass fermentation and undergo cellular respiration; however, facultative anaerobic organisms will both ferment and undergo respiration in the presence of oxygen.[3] Sometimes even when oxygen is present and aerobic metabolism is happening in the mitochondria, if pyruvate is building up faster than it can be metabolized, the fermentation will happen anyway.

Lactate dehydrogenase catalyzes the interconversion of pyruvate and lactate with concomitant interconversion of NADH and NAD+.

In homolactic fermentation, one molecule of glucose is ultimately converted to two molecules of lactic acid. Heterolactic fermentation, in contrast, yields carbon dioxide and ethanol in addition to lactic acid, in a process called the phosphoketolase pathway.[1]


Lactic acid fermentation is used in many areas of the world to produce foods that cannot be produced through other methods.[4][5] The most commercially important genus of lactic acid-fermenting bacteria is Lactobacillus, though other bacteria and even yeast are sometimes used.[4] Two of the most common applications of lactic acid fermentation are in the production of yogurt and sauerkraut.


Main article: Kimchi

Kimchi also uses lactic acid fermentation.[6]


Main article: Sauerkraut

Lactic acid fermentation is also used in the production of sauerkraut. The main type of bacteria used in the production of sauerkraut is of the genus Leuconostoc.[1][7]

As in yogurt, when the acidity rises due to lactic acid-fermenting organisms, many other pathogenic microorganisms are killed. The bacteria produce lactic acid, as well as simple alcohols and other hydrocarbons. These may then combine to form esters, contributing to the unique flavor of sauerkraut.[1]

Sour beer

Main articles: Lambic and Berliner Weisse

Lactic acid is a component in the production of sour beers, including Lambics and Berliner Weisses.[8]


Main article: Yogurt

The main method of producing yogurt is through the lactic acid fermentation of milk with harmless bacteria.[4][9] The primary bacteria used are typically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, and United States law requires all yogurts to contain these two cultures (though others may be added as probiotic cultures).[9] These bacteria produce lactic acid in the milk culture, decreasing its pH and causing it to congeal. The bacteria also produce compounds that give yogurt its distinctive flavor. An additional effect of the lowered pH is the incompatibility of the acidic environment with many other types of harmful bacteria.[4][9]

For a probiotic yogurt, additional types of bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus are also added to the culture.[9]


Lactobacillus fermentation and accompanying production of acid provides a protective vaginal microbiome that protects against the proliferation of pathogenic organisms.[10]

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 "Fermented Fruits and Vegetables - A Global SO Perspective". United Nations FAO. 1998. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
  2. Ohio State University (1998-04-03). "Glycolysis and Fermentation". Retrieved 2010-01-12.
  3. 1 2 Campbell, Neil; Reece, Jane (2005). Biology, 7th Edition. Benjamin Cummings. ISBN 0-8053-7146-X.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Lactic acid fermentation". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  5. "Lactic acid fermentation". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  6. "Lactic acid fermentation in the production of foods from vegetables, cereals and legumes". Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Journal. 1983. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  7. "Sauerkraut Fermentation". University of Wisconsin–Madison. 1999. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  8. Nummer, Brian A. "Brewing With Lactic Acid Bacteria". MoreFlavor Inc. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Yogurt Production". 2006-12-29. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  10. Nardis, C.; Mastromarino, P.; Mosca, L. (September–October 2013). "Vaginal microbiota and viral sexually transmitted diseases". Annali di Igiene. 25 (5): 443–56. doi:10.7416/ai.2013.1946. PMID 24048183.
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