Deciphering the astrocyte-neuron metabolic cooperation in vivo

Brain energy consumption is high and a very tightly regulated energy metabolism ensures correct performance. Neurons, the cells responsible for transmitting information via synapses, interact very closely with star shaped glial cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes play a pivotal role in the regulation of brain energy metabolism and for neurotransmission. Especially, in the case of glutamate, the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, astrocytes are contributing to the clearing of otherwise potentially toxic levels of glutamate in the synaptic cleft. In addition, astrocytes are capable of providing neurons with lactate, which can be used as an additional source of energy in periods of increased demand, such as during neurotransmission. Lactate released by astrocytes is also a signal for neuronal plasticity. In this work, we addressed different aspects of the astrocyte-neuron metabolic coupling. Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are proteins of the inner mitochondrial membrane that are capable of dissipating a proton gradient (uncoupling ATP production from respiration). Five different UCP isoforms have been described. UCP1 is essentially found in brown adipose tissue and is implicated in non-shivering thermogenesis, UCP2 is widely expressed and protecting against reactive oxygen species and UCP3 is mainly expressed in skeletal muscle tissue where a possible role in fatty acid metabolism has been described. UCP4 and 5 are essentially expressed in the brain, but their precise function still needs to be determined. In the present study, we showed that in neurons, UCP4 and UCP5 are predominantly expressed, as compared to the other UCPs. In astrocytes, UCP5 is the most abundant isoform, but also UCP2 and 4 are significantly expressed indicating an important role for these three UCPs in astrocytes. The role of UCP4 was further elucidated. For this purpose, a lentiviral overexpressing UCP4 construct was produced and characterized. This construct overexpressing UCP4 at the mitochondria allowed to demonstrate a neuro-protective role of UCP4 expression in astrocytes. In a complementary approach to study neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling, the role of different astrocytic and neuronal genes in memory and learning was explored in a spatial learning paradigm. Mice were trained 1 to 9 days in a radial maze. The gene analysis showed that genes involved in lactate production and utilization such as lactate dehydrogenases were highly increased. A gene involved in the shuttling of lactate from astrocytes to neurons, such as monocarboxylate transporter 1 was also upregulated. An unexpected decrease in glucose transporter 1 and decrease in hexokinase 2 expression were observed. Finally, genes involved in glycogen metabolism were upregulated. Na+/K+-ATPase alpha2 isoform (ATP1A2), which plays a key role in re-establishing Na+ homeostasis disrupted by the co-transport of Na+ along with glutamate during glutamate uptake, was upregulated following spatial learning. Using a lentiviral transgenesis method, an attempt was made to downregulate the expression of the ATP1A2 in vivo. However, this technique did not allow us to produce sufficient knock down to study the role of ATP1A2 in vivo. Preliminary data for an alternative method are shown. Overall, the set of results presented here provides additional support for the existence of a dynamically regulated neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling.

Magistretti, Pierre
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis6720-0

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2015-09-29, last modified 2018-01-28

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