13C metabolic flux analysis in neurons utilizing a model that accounts for hexose phosphate recycling within the pentose phosphate pathway

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Glycolysis, mitochondrial substrate oxidation, and the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) are critical for neuronal bioenergetics and oxidation–reduction homeostasis, but quantitating their fluxes remains challenging, especially when processes such as hexose phosphate (i.e., glucose/fructose-6-phosphate) recycling in the PPP are considered. A hexose phosphate recycling model was developed which exploited the rates of glucose consumption, lactate production, and mitochondrial respiration to infer fluxes through the major glucose consuming pathways of adherent cerebellar granule neurons by replicating [13C]lactate labeling from metabolism of [1,2-13C2]glucose. Flux calculations were predicated on a steady-state system with reactions having known stoichiometries and carbon atom transitions. Non-oxidative PPP activity and consequent hexose phosphate recycling, as well as pyruvate production by cytoplasmic malic enzyme, were optimized by the model and found to account for 28 ± 2% and 7.7 ± 0.2% of hexose phosphate and pyruvate labeling, respectively. From the resulting fluxes, 52 ± 6% of glucose was metabolized by glycolysis, compared to 19 ± 2% by the combined oxidative/non-oxidative pentose cycle that allows for hexose phosphate recycling, and 29 ± 8% by the combined oxidative PPP/de novo nucleotide synthesis reactions. By extension, 62 ± 6% of glucose was converted to pyruvate, the metabolism of which resulted in 16 ± 1% of glucose oxidized by mitochondria and 46 ± 6% exported as lactate. The results indicate a surprisingly high proportion of glucose utilized by the pentose cycle and the reactions synthesizing nucleotides, and exported as lactate. While the in vitro conditions to which the neurons were exposed (high glucose, no lactate or other exogenous substrates) limit extrapolating these results to the in vivo state, the approach provides a means of assessing a number of metabolic fluxes within the context of hexose phosphate recycling in the PPP from a minimal set of measurements.

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