Send to

Choose Destination
Neurochem Int. 2013 Oct;63(4):244-58. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2013.06.015. Epub 2013 Jul 6.

Astrocytic energetics during excitatory neurotransmission: What are contributions of glutamate oxidation and glycolysis?

Author information

Department of Neurology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.


Astrocytic energetics of excitatory neurotransmission is controversial due to discrepant findings in different experimental systems in vitro and in vivo. The energy requirements of glutamate uptake are believed by some researchers to be satisfied by glycolysis coupled with shuttling of lactate to neurons for oxidation. However, astrocytes increase glycogenolysis and oxidative metabolism during sensory stimulation in vivo, indicating that other sources of energy are used by astrocytes during brain activation. Furthermore, glutamate uptake into cultured astrocytes stimulates glutamate oxidation and oxygen consumption, and glutamate maintains respiration as well as glucose. The neurotransmitter pool of glutamate is associated with the faster component of total glutamate turnover in vivo, and use of neurotransmitter glutamate to fuel its own uptake by oxidation-competent perisynaptic processes has two advantages, substrate is supplied concomitant with demand, and glutamate spares glucose for use by neurons and astrocytes. Some, but not all, perisynaptic processes of astrocytes in adult rodent brain contain mitochondria, and oxidation of only a small fraction of the neurotransmitter glutamate taken up into these structures would be sufficient to supply the ATP required for sodium extrusion and conversion of glutamate to glutamine. Glycolysis would, however, be required in perisynaptic processes lacking oxidative capacity. Three lines of evidence indicate that critical cornerstones of the astrocyte-to-neuron lactate shuttle model are not established and normal brain does not need lactate as supplemental fuel: (i) rapid onset of hemodynamic responses to activation delivers oxygen and glucose in excess of demand, (ii) total glucose utilization greatly exceeds glucose oxidation in awake rodents during activation, indicating that the lactate generated is released, not locally oxidized, and (iii) glutamate-induced glycolysis is not a robust phenotype of all astrocyte cultures. Various metabolic pathways, including glutamate oxidation and glycolysis with lactate release, contribute to cellular energy demands of excitatory neurotransmission.


2-deoxy-d-glucose; ANL; Astrocyte; BOLD; Brain activation; CMR(O2); CMR(glc); DG; Glucose; Glutamate; Lactate; MRS; Neuron; TCA cycle; astrocyte–neuron–lactate; blood oxygen level-dependent; cerebral metabolic rate for glucose; cerebral metabolic rate for oxygen; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; tricarboxylic acid cycle

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center