Imaging liver and brain glycogen metabolism at the nanometer scale
In mammals, glycogen synthesis and degradation are dynamic processes regulating blood and cerebral glucose-levels within a well-defined physiological range. Despite the essential role of glycogen in hepatic and cerebral metabolism, its spatiotemporal distribution at the molecular and cellular level is unclear. By correlating electron microscopy and ultra-high resolution ion microprobe (NanoSIMS) imaging of tissue from fasted mice injected with 13C-labeled glucose, we demonstrate that liver glycogenesis initiates in the hepatocyte perinuclear region before spreading toward the cell membrane. In the mouse brain, we observe that 13C is inhomogeneously incorporated into astrocytic glycogen at a rate 25 times slower than in the liver, in agreement with prior bulk studies. This experiment, using temporally resolved, nanometer-scale imaging of glycogen synthesis and degradation, provides greater insight into glucose metabolism in mammalian organs and shows how this technique can be used to explore biochemical pathways in healthy and diseased states.