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Neurochem Res. 2008 Feb;33(2):279-84. Epub 2007 Aug 25.

Metabolic and regulatory roles of leucine in neural cells.

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Interfaculty Institute for Biochemistry, University of Tuebingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 4, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany.


Dietary leucine transported into the brain parenchyma serves several functions. Most prominent is the role of leucine as a metabolic precursor of fuel molecules, alpha-ketoisocaproate and ketone bodies. As alternatives to glucose, these compounds are forwarded by the producing astrocytes to the adjacent neural cells. Leucine furthermore participates in the maintenance of the nitrogen balance in the glutamate/glutamine cycle pertinent to the neurotransmitter glutamate. Leucine also serves as a regulator of the activity of some enzymes important for brain energy metabolism. Another role of leucine as an informational molecule is in mTOR signaling that participates in the regulation of food ingestion. The importance of leucine for brain function is stressed by the fact that inborn errors in its metabolism cause metabolic diseases often associated with neuropathological symptoms. In this overview, the current knowledge on the metabolic and regulatory roles of this essential amino acid in neural cells are briefly summarized.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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