The adult mammalian brain contains a population of neural stem cells that can give rise to neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes and are thought to be involved in certain forms of memory, behavior, and brain injury repair. Neural stem cell properties, such as self-renewal and multipotency, are modulated by both cell-intrinsic and cell-extrinsic factors. Emerging evidence suggests that energy metabolism is an important regulator of neural stem cell function. Molecules and signaling pathways that sense and influence energy metabolism, including insulin/insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1)-FoxO and insulin/IGF-1-mTOR signaling, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), SIRT1, and hypoxia-inducible factors, are now implicated in neural stem cell biology. Furthermore, these signaling modules are likely to cooperate with other pathways involved in stem cell maintenance and differentiation. This review summarizes the current understanding of how cellular and systemic energy metabolism regulate neural stem cell fate. The known consequences of dietary restriction, exercise, aging, and pathologies with deregulated energy metabolism for neural stem cells and their differentiated progeny will also be discussed. A better understanding of how neural stem cells are influenced by changes in energy availability will help unravel the complex nature of neural stem cell biology in both the normal and diseased state.
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