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Eye Brain. 2010;2:99-116. Epub 2010 Jul 22.

Energy metabolism of the visual system.

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1
Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI 53226, USA.

Abstract

The visual system is one of the most energetically demanding systems in the brain. The currency of energy is ATP, which is generated most efficiently from oxidative metabolism in the mitochondria. ATP supports multiple neuronal functions. Foremost is repolarization of the membrane potential after depolarization. Neuronal activity, ATP generation, blood flow, oxygen consumption, glucose utilization, and mitochondrial oxidative metabolism are all interrelated. In the retina, phototransduction, neurotransmitter utilization, and protein/organelle transport are energy-dependent, yet repolarization-after-depolarization consumes the bulk of the energy. Repolarization in photoreceptor inner segments maintains the dark current. Repolarization by all neurons along the visual pathway following depolarizing excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission preserves cellular integrity and permits reactivation. The higher metabolic activity in the magno- versus the parvo-cellular pathway, the ON- versus the OFF-pathway in some (and the reverse in other) species, and in specialized functional representations in the visual cortex all reflect a greater emphasis on the processing of specific visual attributes. Neuronal activity and energy metabolism are tightly coupled processes at the cellular and even at the molecular levels. Deficiencies in energy metabolism, such as in diabetes, mitochondrial DNA mutation, mitochondrial protein malfunction, and oxidative stress can lead to retinopathy, visual deficits, neuronal degeneration, and eventual blindness.

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