Neuronal-glial interactions in rats fed a ketogenic diet

Neurochem Int. 2006 May-Jun;48(6-7):498-507. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2005.12.037. Epub 2006 Mar 20.


Glucose is the preferred energy substrate for the adult brain. However, during periods of fasting and consumption of a high fat, low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet, ketone bodies become major brain fuels. The present study was conducted to investigate how the ketogenic diet influences neuronal-glial interactions in amino acid neurotransmitter metabolism. Rats were kept on a standard or ketogenic diet. After 21 days all animals received an injection of [1-(13)C]glucose plus [1,2-(13)C]acetate, the preferential substrates of neurons and astrocytes, respectively. Extracts from cerebral cortex and plasma were analyzed by (13)C and (1)H nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and HPLC. Increased amounts of valine, leucine and isoleucine and a decreased amount of glutamate were found in the brains of rats receiving the ketogenic diet. Glycolysis was decreased in ketotic rats compared with controls, evidenced by the reduced amounts of [3-(13)C]alanine and [3-(13)C]lactate. Additionally, neuronal oxidative metabolism of [1-(13)C]glucose was decreased in ketotic rats compared with controls, since amounts of [4-(13)C]glutamate and [4-(13)C]glutamine were lower than those of controls. Although the amount of glutamate from [1-(13)C]glucose was decreased, this was not the case for GABA, indicating that relatively more [4-(13)C]glutamate is converted to GABA. Astrocytic metabolism was increased in response to ketosis, shown by increased amounts of [4,5-(13)C]glutamine, [4,5-(13)C]glutamate, [1,2-(13)C]GABA and [3,4-(13)C]-/[1,2-(13)C]aspartate derived from [1,2-(13)C]acetate. The pyruvate carboxylation over dehydrogenation ratio for glutamine was increased in the ketotic animals compared to controls, giving further indication of increased astrocytic metabolism. Interestingly, pyruvate recycling was higher in glutamine than in glutamate in both groups of animals. An increase in this pathway was detected in glutamate in response to ketosis. The decreased glycolysis and oxidative metabolism of glucose as well as the increased astrocytic metabolism, may reflect adaptation of the brain to ketone bodies as major source of fuel.

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Glutamine / physiology
  • Ketone Bodies / metabolism*
  • Ketosis / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Tissue Extracts / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Amino Acids, Branched-Chain
  • Dietary Fats
  • Ketone Bodies
  • Tissue Extracts
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Glucose
  • Acetic Acid