Glucose metabolism in the developing brain

Semin Perinatol. 2000 Apr;24(2):107-15. doi: 10.1053/sp.2000.6361.


As in adults, glucose is the predominant cerebral energy fuel for the fetus and newborn. Studies in experimental animals and humans indicate that cerebral glucose utilization initially is low and increases with maturation with increasing regional heterogeneity. The increases in cerebral glucose utilization with advancing age occurs as a consequence of increasing functional activity and cerebral energy demands. The levels of expression of the 2 primary facilitative glucose transporter proteins in brain, GLUT1 (blood-brain barrier and glia) and GLUT3 (neuronal), display a similar maturational pattern. Alternate cerebral energy fuels, specifically the ketone bodies and lactate, can substitute for glucose, especially during hypoglycemia, thereby protecting the immature brain from potential untoward effects of hypoglycemia. Unlike adults, glucose supplementation during hypoxia-ischemia is protective in the immature brain, whereas hypoglycemia is deleterious. Accordingly, glucose plays a critical role in the developing brain, not only as the primary substrate for energy production but also to allow for normal biosynthetic processes to proceed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / metabolism
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins


  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Glucose