Imaging the time-integrated cerebral metabolic activity with subcellular resolution through nanometer-scale detection of biosynthetic products deriving from (13)C-glucose

J Chem Neuroanat. 2015 Nov:69:7-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jchemneu.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain but also an important source of building blocks for proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. Little is known about the use of glucose for biosynthesis in tissues at the cellular level. We demonstrate that local cerebral metabolic activity can be mapped in mouse brain tissue by quantitatively imaging the biosynthetic products deriving from [U-(13)C]glucose metabolism using a combination of in situ electron microscopy and secondary ion mass-spectroscopy (NanoSIMS). Images of the (13)C-label incorporated into cerebral ultrastructure with ca. 100 nm resolution allowed us to determine the timescale on which the metabolic products of glucose are incorporated into different cells, their sub-compartments and organelles. These were mapped in astrocytes and neurons in the different layers of the motor cortex. We see evidence for high metabolic activity in neurons via the nucleus (13)C enrichment. We observe that in all the major cell compartments, such as e.g. nucleus and Golgi apparatus, neurons incorporate substantially higher concentrations of (13)C-label than astrocytes.

Keywords: Astrocytes; Glucose; Microscopy; Molecular imaging; Neuronal–glial interaction.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Motor Cortex / metabolism*
  • Motor Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Secondary Ion / methods


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Glucose