Versatility of microglial bioenergetic machinery under starving conditions

Adam M. Nagy, Rebeka Fekete, Gergo Horvath, Gabor Koncsos, Csilla Kriston, A. Sebestyén, Z. Giricz, Zsuzsanna Kornyei, E. Madarász, L. Tretter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Microglia are highly dynamic cells in the brain. Their functional diversity and phenotypic versatility brought microglial energy metabolism into the focus of research. Although it is known that microenvironmental cues shape microglial phenotype, their bioenergetic response to local nutrient availability remains unclear. In the present study effects of energy substrates on the oxidative and glycolytic metabolism of primary – and BV-2 microglial cells were investigated. Cellular oxygen consumption, glycolytic activity, the levels of intracellular ATP/ADP, autophagy, mTOR phosphorylation, apoptosis and cell viability were measured in the absence of nutrients or in the presence of physiological energy substrates: glutamine, glucose, lactate, pyruvate or ketone bodies. All of the oxidative energy metabolites increased the rate of basal and maximal respiration. However, the addition of glucose decreased microglial oxidative metabolism and glycolytic activity was enhanced. Increased ATP/ADP ratio and cell viability, activation of the mTOR and reduction of autophagic activity were observed in glutamine-supplemented media. Moreover, moderate and transient oxidation of ketone bodies was highly enhanced by glutamine, suggesting that anaplerosis of the TCA-cycle could stimulate ketone body oxidation. It is concluded that microglia show high metabolic plasticity and utilize a wide range of substrates. Among them glutamine is the most efficient metabolite. To our knowledge these data provide the first account of microglial direct metabolic response to nutrients under short-term starvation and demonstrate that microglia exhibit versatile metabolic machinery. Our finding that microglia have a distinct bioenergetic profile provides a critical foundation for specifying microglial contributions to brain energy metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-214
Number of pages14
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Autophagy
  • Energy metabolism
  • Glutamine
  • Glycolysis
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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