Glucose is the major energy source the adult brain utilizes under physiologic conditions. Recent findings, however, have suggested that neurons obtain most of their energy from the oxidation of extracellular lactate derived from astroglial metabolism of glucose transported into the brain from the blood. In the present studies we have used 2-[N-(7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazol-4-yl)amino]-2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-NBDG), a fluorescent analogue of 2-deoxyglucose, which is often used to trace glucose utilization in neural tissues, to examine glucose metabolism in neurons in vitro and in vivo. Cultured neurons and astroglia were incubated with 2-NBDG for up to 15 minutes, and nonmetabolized 2-NBDG was washed out. We found that fluorescence intensity increased linearly with incubation time in both neurons and astroglia, indicating that both types of brain cells could utilize glucose as their energy source in vitro. To determine if the same were true in vivo, Sprague-Dawley rats were injected intravenously with a pulse bolus of 2-NBDG and decapitated 45 minutes later. Examination of brain sections demonstrated that phosphorylated 2-NBDG accumulated in hippocampal neurons and cerebellar Purkinje cells, indicating that neurons can utilize glucose in vivo as energy source.