The human blood-brain barrier glucose transporter (GLUT1) is a glucose transporter of gray matter astrocytes

Glia. 1995 May;14(1):43-54. doi: 10.1002/glia.440140107.


Human and monkey brain sections were examined by immunohistochemical light and electron microscopy to determine the distribution of GLUT1, a glucose transporter isoform associated with erythrocytes and endothelial cells of the human blood-brain barrier. Protein immunoblotting of fractionated human brain membranes was performed to determine the distribution of molecular forms of the transporter. GLUT1 staining was abundant in erythrocytes and cerebral endothelium of gray and white matter but was also present diffusely in gray matter neuropil when viewed by light microscopy. Immunoelectron microscopy confirmed the gray matter and vascular localization of GLUT1, with specific GLUT1 staining seen in erythrocytes, gray and white matter endothelial cells, astrocyte foot processes surrounding gray matter blood vessels, and in astrocyte processes adjacent to synaptic contacts. No astrocytic staining was identified in white matter. Astrocyte GLUT1 staining was identified only in mature gray matter regions; undifferentiated regions of preterm (22-23 weeks gestation) cortex had GLUT1 staining only in blood vessels and erythrocytes, as did germinal matrix. Immunoblots of adult human frontal cortex revealed that two forms of GLUT1 (45 and 52 kDa) were present in unfractionated brain homogenates. Immunoblots of vessel-depleted frontal lobe revealed only the 45 kDa form in gray matter fractions, and depleted in membranes prepared from white matter regions. We conclude that the GLUT1 isoform of glucose transporter is present both in endothelium of the blood-brain barrier and in astrocytes surrounding gray matter blood vessels and synapses. Furthermore, the form present in astrocytes is likely to have a lower molecular weight than the form found in cerebral endothelium. The GLUT1 transporter may play an important role not only in astrocyte metabolism, but also in astrocyte-associated pathways supporting neuronal energy metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Blood Vessels / immunology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Endothelium / immunology
  • Erythrocytes / immunology
  • Frontal Lobe / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Medulla Oblongata / immunology
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism*


  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins