Symbiotic relationships between neurons and glia must adapt to structures, functions, and metabolic roles of the tissues they are in. We show here that Müller glia in retinas have specific enzyme deficiencies that can enhance their ability to synthesize Gln. The metabolic cost of these deficiencies is that they impair the Müller cell's ability to metabolize Glc. We show here that the cells can compensate for this deficiency by using metabolites produced by neurons. Müller glia are deficient for pyruvate kinase (PK) and for aspartate/glutamate carrier 1 (AGC1), a key component of the malate-aspartate shuttle. In contrast, photoreceptor neurons express AGC1 and the M2 isoform of pyruvate kinase, which is commonly associated with aerobic glycolysis in tumors, proliferating cells, and some other cell types. Our findings reveal a previously unidentified type of metabolic relationship between neurons and glia. Müller glia compensate for their unique metabolic adaptations by using lactate and aspartate from neurons as surrogates for their missing PK and AGC1.
Keywords: Müller glia; aerobic glycolysis; glutamine metabolism; photoreceptors; retina.