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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1999 Jul 29;354(1387):1165-77.

In vivo nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy studies of the relationship between the glutamate-glutamine neurotransmitter cycle and functional neuroenergetics.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


In this article we review recent studies, primarily from our laboratory, using 13C NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) to non-invasively measure the rate of the glutamate-glutamine neurotransmitter cycle in the cortex of rats and humans. In the glutamate-glutamine cycle, glutamate released from nerve terminals is taken up by surrounding glial cells and returned to the nerve terminals as glutamine. 13C NMR studies have shown that the rate of the glutamate-glutamine cycle is extremely high in both the rat and human cortex, and that it increases with brain activity in an approximately 1:1 molar ratio with oxidative glucose metabolism. The measured ratio, in combination with proposals based on isolated cell studies by P. J. Magistretti and co-workers, has led to the development of a model in which the majority of brain glucose oxidation is mechanistically coupled to the glutamate-glutamine cycle. This model provides the first testable mechanistic relationship between cortical glucose metabolism and a specific neuronal activity. We review here the experimental evidence for this model as well as implications for blood oxygenation level dependent magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography functional imaging studies of brain function.

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