A mathematical model of compartmentalized neurotransmitter metabolism in the human brain

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Jul;281(1):E100-12. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.2001.281.1.E100.


After administration of enriched [1-13C]glucose, the rate of 13C label incorporation into glutamate C4, C3, and C2, glutamine C4, C3, and C2, and aspartate C2 and C3 was simultaneously measured in six normal subjects by 13C NMR at 4 Tesla in 45-ml volumes encompassing the visual cortex. The resulting eight time courses were simultaneously fitted to a mathematical model. The rate of (neuronal) tricarboxylic acid cycle flux (V(PDH)), 0.57 +/- 0.06 micromol. g(-1). min(-1), was comparable to the exchange rate between (mitochondrial) 2-oxoglutarate and (cytosolic) glutamate (Vx), 0.57 +/- 0.19 micromol. g(-1). min(-1)), which may reflect to a large extent malate-aspartate shuttle activity. At rest, oxidative glucose consumption [CMR(Glc(ox))] was 0.41 +/- 0.03 miccromol. g(-1). min(-1), and (glial) pyruvate carboxylation (VPC) was 0.09 +/- 0.02 micromol. g(-1). min(-1). The flux through glutamine synthetase (Vsyn) was 0.26 +/- 0.06 micromol. g(-1). min(-1). A fraction of Vsyn was attributed to be from (neuronal) glutamate, and the corresponding rate of apparent glutamatergic neurotransmission (VNT) was 0.17 +/- 0.05 micromol. g(-1). min(-1). The ratio [VNT/CMR(Glcox)] was 0.41 +/- 0.14 and thus clearly different from a 1:1 stoichiometry, consistent with a significant fraction (approximately 90%) of ATP generated in astrocytes being oxidative. The study underlines the importance of assumptions made in modeling 13C labeling data in brain.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Gluconeogenesis / physiology
  • Glutamate Synthase / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Glutamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamate Synthase