Cellular Specificity and Inter-cellular Coordination in the Brain Bioenergetic System: Implications for Aging and Neurodegeneration

Guoyuan Qi, Yashi Mi, Fei Yin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


As an organ with a highly heterogenous cellular composition, the brain has a bioenergetic system that is more complex than peripheral tissues. Such complexities are not only due to the diverse bioenergetic phenotypes of a variety of cell types that differentially contribute to the metabolic profile of the brain, but also originate from the bidirectional metabolic communications and coupling across cell types. While brain energy metabolism and mitochondrial function have been extensively investigated in aging and age-associated neurodegenerative disorders, the role of various cell types and their inter-cellular communications in regulating brain metabolic and synaptic functions remains elusive. In this review, we summarize recent advances in differentiating bioenergetic phenotypes of neurons, astrocytes, and microglia in the context of their functional specificity, and their metabolic shifts upon aging and pathological conditions. Moreover, the metabolic coordination between the two most abundant cell populations in brain, neurons and astrocytes, is discussed regarding how they jointly establish a dynamic and responsive system to maintain brain bioenergetic homeostasis and to combat against threats such as oxidative stress, lipid toxicity, and neuroinflammation. Elucidating the mechanisms by which brain cells with distinctive bioenergetic phenotypes individually and collectively shape the bioenergetic system of the brain will provide rationale for spatiotemporally precise interventions to sustain a metabolic equilibrium that is resilient against synaptic dysfunction in aging and neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1531
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Jan 8 2020


  • astrocyte
  • brain aging
  • metabolic coupling
  • metabolic shift
  • microglia
  • mitochondria
  • neurodegenerative diseases
  • neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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