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Mol Aspects Med. 2015 Dec;46:70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mam.2015.08.007. Epub 2015 Sep 5.

Brain glycogen in health and disease.

Author information

1
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Barcelona, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas Asociadas (CIBERDEM), Spain.
2
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Barcelona, Spain; Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas Asociadas (CIBERDEM), Spain; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address: guinovart@irbbarcelona.org.

Abstract

Glycogen is present in the brain at much lower concentrations than in muscle or liver. However, by characterizing an animal depleted of brain glycogen, we have shown that the polysaccharide plays a key role in learning capacity and in activity-dependent changes in hippocampal synapse strength. Since glycogen is essentially found in astrocytes, the diverse roles proposed for this polysaccharide in the brain have been attributed exclusively to these cells. However, we have demonstrated that neurons have an active glycogen metabolism that contributes to tolerance to hypoxia. However, these cells can store only minute amounts of glycogen, since the progressive accumulation of this molecule leads to neuronal loss. Loss-of-function mutations in laforin and malin cause Lafora disease. This condition is characterized by the presence of high numbers of insoluble polyglucosan bodies, known as Lafora bodies, in neuronal cells. Our findings reveal that the accumulation of this aberrant glycogen accounts for the neurodegeneration and functional consequences, as well as the impaired autophagy, observed in models of this disease. Similarly glycogen synthase is responsible for the accumulation of corpora amylacea, which are polysaccharide-based aggregates present in the neurons of aged human brains. Our findings change the current view of the role of glycogen in the brain and reveal that endogenous neuronal glycogen metabolism is important under stress conditions and that neuronal glycogen accumulation contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and to aging-related corpora amylacea formation.

KEYWORDS:

Brain; Corpora amylacea; Glycogen; Glycogen synthase; Lafora disease; Neuron

PMID:
26344371
DOI:
10.1016/j.mam.2015.08.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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