Neuronal function is highly influenced by the extracellular environment. To study the effect of the milieu on neurons from cerebellum and neocortex, cells from these brain areas were cultured under different conditions. Two sets of cultures, one neocortical and one cerebellar neurons, were maintained in media containing [U-13C]glucose for 8 days at initial concentrations of 12 and 28 mM glucose, respectively. Other sets of cultures (8 days in vitro) maintained in a medium containing initially 12 mM glucose were incubated subsequently for 4 hr either by addition of [U-13C]glucose to the culture medium (final concentration 3 mM) or by changing to fresh medium containing [U-13C]glucose (3 mM) but without glutamine and fetal calf serum. 13C Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra revealed extensive γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) synthesis in both cultured neocortical and cerebellar neurons after maintenance in medium containing [U-13C]glucose for 8 days, whereas no aspartate labeling was observed in these spectra. Mass spectrometry analysis, however, revealed high labeling intensity of aspartate, which was equal in the two types of neurons. Addition of [U-13C]glucose (4 hr) on Day 8 in culture led to a similar extent of labeling of GABA in neocortical and in cerebellar cultures, but the cellular content of GABA was considerably higher in the neocortical neurons. The cellular content of alanine was similar regardless of culture type. Comparing the amount of labeling, however, cerebellar neurons exhibited a higher capacity for alanine synthesis. This is compatible with the fact that cerebellar neurons could ameliorate a low alanine content after culturing in low glucose (12 mM) by a 4-hr incubation in medium containing 3 mM glucose. A low glucose concentration during the culture period and a subsequent medium change were associated with decreases in glutathione and taurine contents. Moreover, glutamate and GABA contents were reduced in cerebellar cultures under either of these conditions. In neocortical neurons, the GABA content was decreased by simultaneous exposure to low glucose and change of medium. These conditions also led to an increase in the aspartate content in both types of cultures, although most pronounced in the neocortical neurons. Further experiments are needed to elucidate these phenomena that underline the impact of extracellular environment on amino acid homeostasis. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.