Photoreceptors have high energy demands and a high density of mitochondria that produce ATP through oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) of fuel substrates. Although glucose is the major fuel for CNS brain neurons, in photoreceptors (also CNS), most glucose is not metabolized through OXPHOS but is instead metabolized into lactate by aerobic glycolysis. The major fuel sources for photoreceptor mitochondria remained unclear for almost six decades. Similar to other tissues (like heart and skeletal muscle) with high metabolic rates, photoreceptors were recently found to metabolize fatty acids (palmitate) through OXPHOS. Disruption of lipid entry into photoreceptors leads to extracellular lipid accumulation, suppressed glucose transporter expression, and a duel lipid/glucose fuel shortage. Modulation of lipid metabolism helps restore photoreceptor function. However, further elucidation of the types of lipids used as retinal energy sources, the metabolic interaction with other fuel pathways, as well as the cross-talk among retinal cells to provide energy to photoreceptors is not fully understood. In this review, we will focus on the current understanding of photoreceptor energy demand and sources, and potential future investigations of photoreceptor metabolism.
Keywords: lipid metabolism; mitochondrial fuel; retina.
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