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Abstract

Positron emission tomography (PET) and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) are two biomedical measurement techniques developed in the end of the XXth century, which drastically improved the amount of accessible information available in vivo. PET became popular through the most widely used tracer, fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which enables the measurement of the local glucose utilization and is nowadays routinely applied in clinical practice. Nuclear magnetic resonance is used in a large array of applications such as in analytical chemistry or chemical structure determination and is essentially known for its versatile medical imaging capabilities, grouped under the name of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). In vivo MRS measures concentrations of metabolites by interacting with various nuclei such as 1H, 13C or 15N, with the major asset that MRS enables the identification of the chemical position at which the detected nuclei is located in the measured molecule. When coupled with labeled substrate infusions, dynamic MRS gives the opportunity to probe specific biochemical reactions directly in vivo, which opens the way to a wide range of metabolic studies. However, the correct interpretation of the elaborate dynamic labeling data acquired either with MRS or PET tracer experiments requires the application of adapted metabolic models to derive quantitative metabolic rates characterizing the biochemical processes under study. The work of this thesis involves both PET and MRS studies of brain energy metabolism in rodents and focuses on the development of adapted metabolic models to derive reliable metabolic fluxes characterizing various brain metabolic processes, such as glucose consumption, glial and neuronal oxidative metabolism and neurotransmission. FDG-PET enables the measurement of the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRGlc) using a three-compartment metabolic model for FDG transport across the blood-brain barrier and FDG phosphorylation to FDG-6P. Although this method is well established, a main drawback of CMRGlc measurement with FDG-PET is the necessity to characterize the available FDG concentration in the plasma over the experiment duration, the so-called arterial input function. This constraint is a strong limitation for preclinical studies in rodents, due to their low blood volume. We developed therefore a new method to extract the FDG input function directly from the PET images in rats and mice, using the time-activity curve of a voxel located in the inferior vena cava. The method was validated by comparison with a dedicated external blood counter and manual blood sampling. Using this method, a CMRGlc of ~0.22 μmol/g/min was determined in the mouse cortex. Glial oxidative metabolism can be specifically assessed using glial specific substrates, in particular [1-11C] acetate. However, no existing metabolic model described the 11C tissue activity curve in terms of neuroglial energy metabolism. In order to extract quantitative metabolic fluxes characterizing the glial TCA cycle rate and glutamate/glutamine cycling, we adapted the neuroglial two-compartment modeling approach previously used in 13C MRS cerebral metabolic studies to interpret positron emission data following 11C-acetate injection in the rat. The precision and accuracy of the estimated metabolic parameters was tested and a composite glial metabolic flux Vgtg=0.136 ± 0.042 μmol/g/min and a neurotransmission flux Vnt=0.170 ± 0.103 μmol/g/min were obtained. This approach enabled a direct comparison of the metabolic fluxes measured using 11C PET with the values determined with 13C MRS. In the field of 13C MRS, we took advantage of the higher sensitivity and spectral resolution available at high magnetic field (14.1T) to measure glial and neuronal oxidative metabolism, glutamatergic neurotransmission and pyruvate carboxylation in more details and with higher precision using both [1,6-13C2] glucose and [2-13C] acetate infusions in rats. In the acetate study, the glial specific uptake of acetate enabled a quantification of glial oxidative metabolism with unrivalled precision. We could estimate for the first time separately the transmitochondrial flux Vx in the glial and neuronal compartment, a biochemical pathway which has been subject of strong controversy. The glial and neuronal Vx were determined with high precision, as calculated through Monte Carlo simulation, and their value was on the same order of magnitude than the respective glial and neuronal TCA cycle flux. The model was extended to estimate the fraction of glutamate located in the glial compartment. A glial glutamate concentration of 0.6 ± 0.1 μmol/g was found. The values of the different metabolic fluxes characterizing the neuroglial system (Vtcag=0.27, Vxg=0.17, VPC=0.087, VNT=0.15, Vtcan=0.37 and Vxn=0.46 μmol/g/min) were in very good agreement with the values found using [1,6-13C2] glucose infusion. In addition, the effect of the MRS temporal resolution, experiment duration and signal- to-noise ratio on the precision of the derived metabolic fluxes was analyzed. Previous simulation studies showed that two-compartment modeling of neuroglial metabolism using 13C glucose infusion could lead to unreliable parameter estimations. However, using polarization transfer 13C MRS at 14.1T, the carbon positions C4, C3 and C2 of glutamate and glutamine as well as the positions C3 and C2 of aspartate could be measured with high SNR. The C2 positions were used in two-compartment modeling for the first time, enabling a precise measurement of the apparent glutamatergic neurotransmission and glial metabolism, including pyruvate carboxylation, as confirmed by Monte Carlo simulation. The glial dilution at the level of acetyl-CoA, which is related to the metabolism of other substrates than glucose, could also be characterized. Brain metabolism under hyperammonemic conditions was probed with 15N MRS under labeled ammonia infusion and modeled using a modified neuroglial two- compartment model describing the dynamics of [5-15N] glutamine, [2-15N] glutamate and [2-15N] glutamine. Due to detoxification processes, the total glutamine concentration, measured with 1H MRS, was steadily increasing. This non-steady- state metabolic condition resulting from the hyperammonemic stress was taken into account in the model, resulting in the determination of the apparent neurotransmission (0.26 ± 0.030 μmol/g/min), the glutamate dehydrogenase (0.029 ± 0.002 μmol/g/min) and net glutamine accumulation (0.033 ± 0.001 μmol/g/min). Finally, compartmental modeling was applied to 13C labeling studies in the awake rat, fed during 5, 24 or 48 h with a [1-13C]-labeled glucose solution, to determine brain glycogen and NAA turnover times (τGlyc=5.3 ± 3.2 h and τNAA=15.6 ± 6.5 h), using 13C spectra of brain extracts. A group of rats followed a mild brain activation protocol over 5 hours, which resulted in a decreased glycogen turnover time (τGlyc =2.9 ± 1.2 h).

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