Contribution of extracellular glutamine as an anaplerotic substrate to neuronal metabolism: a re-evaluation by multinuclear NMR spectroscopy in primary cultured neurons

Neurochem Res. 2005 Oct;30(10):1269-81. doi: 10.1007/s11064-005-8798-8.


Multinuclear NMR spectroscopy is used to investigate the effect of glutamine on neuronal glucose metabolism. Primary neurons were incubated with [1-(13C)]glucose in the absence or presence of glutamine (2 mM) and/or NH4Cl (5 mM). After ammonia-treatment, the concentrations of high-energy phosphates decreased up to 84% of control, which was aggravated in glutamine-containing medium (up to 42% of control). These effects could not be attributed to changes in mitochondrial glucose oxidation. Withdrawal of glutamine decreased amino acid concentrations, e.g. of glutamate to 53%, but also considerably lessened the 13C enrichment in [4-(13C)]glutamate to 8.3% of control, and decreased the 13C-enrichment in acetyl-CoA entering the Krebs cycle (P < 0.001). Thus, although glutamine is potent in replenishing neuronal glutamate stores, glutamate formation is mainly attributed to its de novo synthesis from glucose. Furthermore, mitochondrial glucose metabolism strongly depends on the supply of carbons from glutamine, indicating that exogenous glutamine is a well-suited substrate to replenish neuronal Krebs cycle intermediates.

MeSH terms

  • Ammonium Chloride / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / chemistry
  • Carbon Radioisotopes / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Citric Acid Cycle / physiology
  • Culture Media / chemistry
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glutamine / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Rats


  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Culture Media
  • Ammonium Chloride
  • Glutamine
  • Glucose