The brain uses mainly glucose as fuel with an index of glucose to oxygen utilization close to 6, the maximal index if all glucose was completely oxidized. However, this high oxidative index, contrasts with the metabolic traits of the major cell types in the brain studied in culture, neurons and astrocytes, including the selective use of the malate-aspartate shuttle (MAS) in neurons and the glycerol-phosphate shuttle in astrocytes. Metabolic interactions among these cell types may partly explain the high oxidative index of the brain. In vivo, neuronal activation results in a decrease in the oxygen glucose index, which has been attributed to a stimulation of glycolysis and lactate production in astrocytes in response to glutamate uptake (astrocyte-neuron lactate shuttle, ANLS). Recent findings indicate that this is accompanied with a stimulation of pyruvate formation and astrocyte respiration, indicating that lactate formation is not the only astrocytic response to neuronal activation. ANLS proposes that neurons utilize lactate produced by neighboring astrocytes. Indeed, neurons can use lactate to support an increase in respiration with different workloads, and this depends on the Ca2+ activation of MAS. However, whether this activation operates in the brain, particularly at high stimulation conditions, remains to be established.
Keywords: Astrocyte; Calcium; Malate-aspartate shuttle; Mitochondria; Neuron; Oxygen consumption.