Bioenergetics of cerebral ischemia: a cellular perspective

Neuropharmacology. 2008 Sep;55(3):289-309. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.05.023. Epub 2008 Jun 3.


In cerebral ischemia survival of neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and endothelial cells is threatened during energy deprivation and/or following re-supply of oxygen and glucose. After a brief summary of characteristics of different cells types, emphasizing the dependence of all on oxidative metabolism, the bioenergetics of focal and global ischemia is discussed, distinguishing between events during energy deprivation and subsequent recovery attempt after re-circulation. Gray and white matter ischemia are described separately, and distinctions are made between mature and immature brains. Next comes a description of bioenergetics in individual cell types in culture during oxygen/glucose deprivation or exposure to metabolic inhibitors and following re-establishment of normal aerated conditions. Due to their expression of NMDA and non-NMDA receptors neurons and oligodendrocytes are exquisitely sensitive to excitotoxicity by glutamate, which reaches high extracellular concentrations in ischemic brain for several reasons, including failing astrocytic uptake. Excitotoxicity kills brain cells by energetic exhaustion (due to Na(+) extrusion after channel-mediated entry) combined with mitochondrial Ca(2+)-mediated injury and formation of reactive oxygen species. Many (but not all) astrocytes survive energy deprivation for extended periods, but after return to aerated conditions they are vulnerable to mitochondrial damage by cytoplasmic/mitochondrial Ca(2+) overload and to NAD(+) deficiency. Ca(2+) overload is established by reversal of Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchangers following Na(+) accumulation during Na(+)-K(+)-Cl(-) cotransporter stimulation or pH regulation, compensating for excessive acid production. NAD(+) deficiency inhibits glycolysis and eventually oxidative metabolism, secondary to poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) activity following DNA damage. Hyperglycemia can be beneficial for neurons but increases astrocytic death due to enhanced acidosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Glucose