Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

7.3D: Red Blood Cell Macronutrient Metabolism

  • Page ID
    1504
  • [ "article:topic", "authorname:blindshield" ]

    Red blood cells are the most limited of the extrahepatic tissues because they do not contain a nucleus or other cell organelles, most notably mitochondria.

    Figure 7.341 Red blood cells do not contain mitochondria1

    As a result, compared to the extrahepatic tissues, in red blood cells the following pathways are not performed or are not important:

    • Glycogen synthesis and breakdown
    • Lactate breakdown
    • Fatty acid synthesis and breakdown
    • Triglyceride synthesis and breakdown
    • Protein synthesis and breakdown
    • Ketone body breakdown

    These pathways are crossed off in the figure below.

    Figure 7.342 The metabolic pathways that are not performed or important in the red blood cells, compared to extrahepatic tissues as a whole are crossed off2

    If all those pathways are removed, only glycolysis is left, where pyruvate is converted to lactate.

    Figure 7.343 Red blood cell metabolic capability

    Thus, red blood cells are one-trick ponies, only being able to perform glycolysis and produce lactate.

    Figure 7.344 Red blood cells are one-trick ponies