A metabolic shift from lactate production (LP) to net lactate consumption (LC) phenotype was observed in certain Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines during the implementation of a new chemically defined medium (CDM) formulation for antibody production. In addition, this metabolic shift typically leads to process performance improvements in cell growth, productivity, process robustness, and scalability. In our previous studies, a correlation between a key media component, copper, and this lactate metabolism shift was observed. To further investigate this phenomenon, two complementary studies were conducted. In the first study, a single cell line was cultivated in two media that only differed in their copper concentrations, yet were known to generate an LP or LC phenotype with that cell line. In the second study, two different cell lines, which were known to possess inherently different lactate metabolic characteristics, were cultivated in the same medium with a high level of copper; one cell line produced lactate throughout the duration of the culture, and the other consumed lactate after an initial period of LP. Cell pellet and supernatant samples from both studies were collected at regular time intervals, and their metabolite profiles were investigated. The primary finding from the metabolic analysis was that the cells in LP conditions exhibited a less efficient energy metabolism, with glucose primarily being converted into pyruvate, sorbitol, lactate, and other glycolytic intermediates. This decrease in energy efficiency may be due to an inability of pyruvate and acetyl-CoA to progress into the TCA cycle. The lack of progression into the TCA cycle or overflow metabolism in the LP phenotype resulted in the inadequate supply of ATP for the cells. As a consequence, the glycolysis pathway remained the major source of ATP, which in turn, resulted in continuous LP throughout the culture. In addition, the accumulation of free fatty acids was observed; this was thought to be a result of phospholipid catabolism that was being used to supplement the energy produced through glycolysis in order to meet the needs of LP cells. A thorough review of the metabolic profiles indicated that the lactate metabolic shift could be related to the oxidative metabolic capacity of cells. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012;109: 146–156. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.