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J Neurosci. 1993 Mar;13(3):981-9.

Proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy unambiguously identifies different neural cell types.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics, Hunterian Institute, Royal College of Surgeons of England, London.


Proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy is a noninvasive technique that can provide information on a wide range of metabolites. Marked abnormalities of 1H NMR brain spectra have been reported in patients with neurological disorders, but their neurochemical implications may be difficult to appreciate because NMR data are obtained from heterogeneous tissue regions composed of several cell populations. The purpose of this study was to examine the 1H NMR profile of major neural cell types. This information may be helpful in understanding the metabolic abnormalities detected by 1H NMR spectroscopy. Extracts of cultured cerebellar granule neurons, cortical astrocytes, oligodendrocyte-type 2 astrocyte (O-2A) progenitor cells, oligodendrocytes, and meningeal cells were analyzed. The purity of the cultured cells was > 95% with all the cell lineages, except for neurons (approximately 90%). Although several constituents (creatine, choline-containing compounds, lactate, acetate, succinate, alanine, glutamate) were ubiquitously detectable with 1H NMR, each cell type had distinctive qualitative and/or quantitative features. Our most unexpected finding was a large amount of N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) in O-2A progenitors. This compound, consistently detected by 1H NMR in vivo, was previously thought to ne present only in neurons. The finding that meningeal cells have an alanine:creatine ratio three to four times higher than astrocytes, neurons, or oligodendrocytes is in agreement with observations that meningiomas express a higher alanine:creatine ratio than gliomas. The data suggest that each individual cell type has a characteristic metabolic pattern that can be discriminated by 1H NMR, even by looking at only a few metabolites (e.g., NAA, glycine, beta-hydroxybutyrate).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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