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Metabolism of [U-13C5]Glutamine in Cultured Astrocytes Studied by NMR Spectroscopy: First Evidence of Astrocytic Pyruvate Recycling


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. U. Sonnewald at MR Center, SINTEF UNIMED, N-7034 Trondheim, Norway.


Abstract: Metabolism of [U-13C5]glutamine was studied in primary cultures of cerebral cortical astrocytes in the presence or absence of extracellular glutamate. Perchloric acid extracts of the cells as well as redissolved lyophilized media were subjected to nuclear magnetic resonance and mass spectrometry to identify 13C-labeled metabolites. Label from glutamine was found in glutamate and to a lesser extent in lactate and alanine. In the presence of unlabeled glutamate, label was also observed in aspartate. It could be clearly demonstrated that some [U-13C5]glutamine is metabolized through the tricarboxylic acid cycle, although to a much smaller extent than previously shown for [U-13C5]glutamate. Lactate formation from tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates has previously been demonstrated. It has, however, not been demonstrated that pyruvate, formed from glutamate or glutamine, may reenter the tricarboxylic acid cycle after conversion to acetyl-CoA. The present work demonstrates that this pathway is active, because [4,5-13C2]glutamate was observed in astrocytes incubated with [U-13C5]glutamine in the additional presence of unlabeled glutamate. Furthermore, using mass spectrometry, mono-labeled alanine, glutamate, and glutamine were detected. This isotopomer could be derived via the action of pyruvate carboxylase using 13CO2 produced within the mitochondria or from labeled intermediates that had stayed in the tricarboxylic acid cycle for more than one turn.