Introduction to the Glutamate–Glutamine Cycle

  • Ursula SonnewaldEmail author
  • Arne Schousboe
Part of the Advances in Neurobiology book series (NEUROBIOL, volume 13)


The term ‘glutamate–glutamine cycle’ was coined several decades ago based on the observation that using certain 14C-labeled precursors for studies of brain metabolism the specific radioactivity of glutamine generated from glutamate was higher than that of glutamate, its immediate precursor. This is metabolically impossible unless it is assumed that at least two distinct pools of these amino acids exist. This combined with the finding that the enzyme synthesizing glutamine from glutamate was expressed in astrocytes but not in neurons formed the basis of the notion that a cycle must exist in which glutamate released from neurons is transported into astrocytes, converted to glutamine which is subsequently returned to neurons and converted to glutamate by an enzyme the activity of which is much higher in neurons than in astrocytes. Originally this cycle was supposed to function in a stoichiometric fashion but more recent research has seriously questioned this.

This volume of Advances in Neurobiology is intended to provide a detailed discussion of recent developments in research aimed at delineating the functional roles of the cycle taking into account that in order for this system to work there must be a tight coupling between metabolism of glutamate in astrocytes, transfer of glutamine to neurons and de novo synthesis of glutamine in astrocytes. To understand this, knowledge about the activity and regulation of the enzymes and transporters involved in these processes is required and as can be seen from the table of contents these issues will be dealt with in detail in the individual chapters of the book.


Glutamate Glutamine Transport Synthesis metabolism 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeuroscienceNorwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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