The main source of energy for the mammalian brain is glucose, and the main sink of energy in the mammalian brain is the neuron, so the conventional view of brain energy metabolism is that glucose is consumed preferentially in neurons. But between glucose and the production of energy are several steps that do not necessarily take place in the same cell. An alternative model has been proposed that states that glucose preferentially taken by astrocytes, is degraded to lactate and then exported into neurons to be oxidized. Short of definitive data, opinions about the relative merits of these competing models are divided, making it a very exciting field of research. Furthermore, growing evidence suggests that lactate acts as a signaling molecule, involved in Na(+) sensing, glucosensing, and in coupling neuronal and glial activity to the modulation of vascular tone. In the present review, we discuss possible dynamics of glucose and lactate in excitatory synaptic regions, focusing on the transporters that catalyze the movement of these molecules.
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