Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system

Brain Res Bull. 2008 Jul 1;76(4):329-43. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2008.02.035. Epub 2008 Mar 24.


Creatine kinase catalyses the reversible transphosphorylation of creatine by ATP. In the cell, creatine kinase isoenzymes are specifically localized at strategic sites of ATP consumption to efficiently regenerate ATP in situ via phosphocreatine or at sites of ATP generation to build-up a phosphocreatine pool. Accordingly, the creatine kinase/phosphocreatine system plays a key role in cellular energy buffering and energy transport, particularly in cells with high and fluctuating energy requirements like neurons. Creatine kinases are expressed in the adult and developing human brain and spinal cord, suggesting that the creatine kinase/phosphocreatine system plays a significant role in the central nervous system. Functional impairment of this system leads to a deterioration in energy metabolism, which is phenotypic for many neurodegenerative and age-related diseases. Exogenous creatine supplementation has been shown to reduce neuronal cell loss in experimental paradigms of acute and chronic neurological diseases. In line with these findings, first clinical trials have shown beneficial effects of therapeutic creatine supplementation. Furthermore, creatine was reported to promote differentiation of neuronal precursor cells that might be of importance for improving neuronal cell replacement strategies. Based on these observations there is growing interest on the effects and functions of this compound in the central nervous system. This review gives a short excursion into the basics of the creatine kinase/phosphocreatine system and aims at summarizing findings and concepts on the role of creatine kinase and creatine in the central nervous system with special emphasis on pathological conditions and the positive effects of creatine supplementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / drug therapy
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / metabolism
  • Brain Diseases, Metabolic / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / drug therapy
  • Brain Injuries / metabolism
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Creatine / metabolism*
  • Creatine / therapeutic use
  • Creatine Kinase / metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Stroke / drug therapy
  • Stroke / metabolism
  • Stroke / physiopathology


  • Creatine Kinase
  • Creatine