Glutamate is one of the most versatile molecules present in the human brain, involved in protein synthesis, energy production, ammonia detoxification, and transport of reducing equivalents. Aside from these critical metabolic roles, glutamate plays a major part in brain function, being not only the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, but also the precursor for c-aminobutyric acid, the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter. Regulation of glutamate levels is pivotal for normal brain function, as abnormal extracellular concentration of glutamate can lead to impaired neurotransmission, neurodegeneration and even neuronal death. Understanding how the neuron-astrocyte functional and metabolic interactions modulate glutamate concentration during different activation status and under physiological and pathological conditions is a challenging task, and can only be tentatively estimated from current literature. In this paper, we focus on describing the various metabolic pathways which potentially affect glutamate concentration in the brain, and emphasize which ones are likely to produce the variations in glutamate concentration observed during enhanced neuronal activity in human studies.
- Human brain
- In vivo studies
- Malate-aspartate shuttle
- Neuron-astrocyte interactions
- Neuronal stimulation