Friday, 15th December - h. 11:00
Seminars Room, NICO
Neuroanatomical basis of brain energy metabolism in the mammalian brain.
Understanding the mammalian brain’s computational efficiency represents, to date, an ambitious challenge. Growing evidence suggests that the key to unveil such mystery relies in its complex energy management system, which is known to be based on glucose consumption, at least for mammalian cells. In the early 90s, the finding that lactate, an intermediate product of the glucose metabolic pathway, plays a central role in neuronal energy supply, formalized as the “astrocyte-neuron lactate shuttle” (ANLS), brought a paradigm shift, from glucose to lactate, into the field of neuroenergetics, and shed new light on the importance of astrocytes into brain physiology and pathology.
Recently, astrocytic, glycogen-derived lactate, a product of aerobic glycolysis, has been shown to be pivotal for brain plasticity, learning and memory. To elucidate the structural basis of ANLS, and more in general of the complex astrocyte-neuron crosstalk, we take advantage of high-resolution 3D reconstructions from serial section electron microscopy, and inspect the morphological pattern through which astrocytes are intimately connected to neurites and vasculature (the so called neuro-glia-vasculature ensemble, or NGV). We then extract information like astrocytic coverage of synapses, the extent of ER and mitochondria, or the intracellular distribution of glycogen granules, and compare those between resting state and learning, or during aging, using customized qualitative and quantitative analysis tools.
This approach is reminiscent of the pioneering work of early observers like Golgi and Ramon y Cayal, who formulated hypotheses of the functional role of brain components by their morphology, but revised using much higher resolution imaging techniques, as well as Virtual Reality (VR) visualization tools.
Host: Alessandro Vercelli