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Neurochem Int. 2004 Jul-Aug;45(2-3):305-10.

Intracellular metabolic compartmentation assessed by 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

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Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), NO-7489 Trondheim, Norway.


Our understanding of the brain has developed from the theory that it is one continuous cell to the knowledge that there are many brain cells originally termed neurons and, furthermore to the discovery of glial cells and their multiple functions. Thus, an increasing complexity was unraveled and we have not reached a complete understanding of the phenomenon which comprises the compartmentation of metabolic pathways and metabolites. This is an important principle needed to fully understand the metabolic processes of the brain. At the cellular level this concept is well established whereas intracellular compartmentation has yet to be explored. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) for analysis of isotopomer composition combined with quantification of amino acid contents it is possible to construct models that describe intracellular compartmentation. Results of studies of cultures of astrocytes and neurons incubated in media containing [U- 13C]glutamate in the presence or absence of thiopental may be used to propose an intracellular three compartment model of mitochondrial function. Due to the experimental paradigm only certain aspects of metabolism can be described. The present model consists of compartments assigned to CO(2) production, glutamate synthesis from ketoglutarate and finally synthesis of a four-carbon metabolite which is shuttled between compartments. It is likely that metabolism may be far more complex than this and we are only beginning to glimpse some aspects of compartmentation at the cellular level.

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