Astrocytes as Key Regulators of Brain Energy Metabolism: New Therapeutic Perspectives

Elidie Beard, Sylvain Lengacher, Sara Dias, Pierre J. Magistretti, Charles Finsterwald*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Astrocytes play key roles in the regulation of brain energy metabolism, which has a major impact on brain functions, including memory, neuroprotection, resistance to oxidative stress and homeostatic tone. Energy demands of the brain are very large, as they continuously account for 20–25% of the whole body’s energy consumption. Energy supply of the brain is tightly linked to neuronal activity, providing the origin of the signals detected by the widely used functional brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography. In particular, neuroenergetic coupling is regulated by astrocytes through glutamate uptake that triggers astrocytic aerobic glycolysis and leads to glucose uptake and lactate release, a mechanism known as the Astrocyte Neuron Lactate Shuttle. Other neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline and Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide mobilize glycogen, the reserve for glucose exclusively localized in astrocytes, also resulting in lactate release. Lactate is then transferred to neurons where it is used, after conversion to pyruvate, as a rapid energy substrate, and also as a signal that modulates neuronal excitability, homeostasis, and the expression of survival and plasticity genes. Importantly, glycolysis in astrocytes and more generally cerebral glucose metabolism progressively deteriorate in aging and age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. This decreased glycolysis actually represents a common feature of several neurological pathologies. Here, we review the critical role of astrocytes in the regulation of brain energy metabolism, and how dysregulation of astrocyte-mediated metabolic pathways is involved in brain hypometabolism. Further, we summarize recent efforts at preclinical and clinical stages to target brain hypometabolism for the development of new therapeutic interventions in age-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number825816
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Jan 11 2022


  • astrocytes
  • brain
  • energy
  • GliaPharm
  • glucose
  • lactate
  • metabolism
  • new therapeutic approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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