Glutamate synthesis has to be matched by its degradation – where do all the carbons go?

Authors

  • Ursula Sonnewald

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
    • Address correspondence and reprint requests to U. Sonnewald, Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, Olav Kyrresgt. 3, N-7489 Trondheim, Norway. E-mail: ursula.sonnewald@ntnu.no

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Abstract

The central process in energy production is the oxidation of acetyl-CoA to CO2 by the tricarboxylic acid (TCA, Krebs, citric acid) cycle. However, this cycle functions also as a biosynthetic pathway from which intermediates leave to be converted primarily to glutamate, GABA, glutamine and aspartate and to a smaller extent to glucose derivatives and fatty acids in the brain. When TCA cycle ketoacids are removed, they must be replaced to permit the continued function of this essential pathway, by a process termed anaplerosis. Since the TCA cycle cannot act as a carbon sink, anaplerosis must be coupled with cataplerosis; the exit of intermediates from the TCA cycle. The role of anaplerotic reactions for cellular metabolism in the brain has been studied extensively. However, the coupling of this process with cataplerosis and the roles that both pathways play in the regulation of amino acid, glucose, and fatty acid homeostasis have not been emphasized. The concept of a linkage between anaplerosis and cataplerosis should be underscored, because the balance between these two processes is essential. The hypothesis that cataplerosis in the brain is achieved by exporting the lactate generated from the TCA cycle intermediates into the blood and perivascular area is presented. This shifts the generally accepted paradigm of lactate generation as simply derived from glycolysis to that of oxidation and might present an alternative explanation for aerobic glycolysis.

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Intermediates leave the tricarboxylic acid cycle and must be replaced by a process termed anaplerosis that must be coupled to cataplerosis. We hypothesize that cataplerosis is achieved by exporting the lactate generated from the cycle into the blood and perivascular area. This shifts the paradigm of lactate generation as solely derived from glycolysis to that of oxidation and might present an alternative explanation for aerobic glycolysis.

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