Quantification of the GABA Shunt and the Importance of the GABA Shunt Versus the 2-Oxoglutarate Dehydrogenase Pathway in GABAergic Neurons

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We investigated the activity of the cerebral GABA shunt relative to the overall cerebral tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and the importance of the GABA shunt versus 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase for the conversion of 2-oxoglutarate into succinate in GABAergic neurons. Awake mice were dosed with [1-13C]glucose, and brain extracts were analyzed by 13C NMR spectroscopy. The percent enrichments of GABA C-2 and glutamate C-4 were the same: 5.0 ± 1.6 and 5.1 ± 0.2%, respectively (mean ± SD). This, together with previous data, indicates that the flux through the GABA shunt relative to the overall cerebral TCA cycle flux equals the GABA/glutamate pool size ratio, which in the mouse is 17%. It has previously been shown that under the experimental conditions used in this study, the 13C labeling of aspartate from [1-13C]glucose specifically reflects the metabolic activity of GABAergic neurons. In the present study, the reduction in the formation of [13C]aspartate during inhibition of the GABA shunt by γ-vinyl-GABA indicated that not more than half the flux from 2-oxoglutarate to succinate in GABAergic neurons goes via the GABA shunt. Therefore, because fluxes through the GABA shunt and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase in GABAergic neurons are approximately the same, the TCA cycle activity of GABAergic neurons could account for one-third of the overall cerebral TCA cycle activity in the mouse. Treatment with γ-vinyl-GABA, which increased GABA levels dramatically, caused changes in the 13C labeling of glutamate and glutamine, which indicated a reduction in the transfer of glutamate from neurons to glia, implying reduced glutamatergic neurotransmission. In the most severely affected animals these alterations were associated with convulsions.

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