Case for supporting astrocyte energetics in glucose transporter 1 deficiency syndrome


In glucose transporter 1 deficiency syndrome (Glut1DS), glucose transport into brain is reduced due to impaired Glut1 function in endothelial cells at the blood–brain barrier. This can lead to shortages of glucose in brain and is thought to contribute to seizures. Ketogenic diets are the first-line treatment and, among many beneficial effects, provide auxiliary fuel in the form of ketone bodies that are largely metabolized by neurons. However, Glut1 is also the main glucose transporter in astrocytes. Here, we review data indicating that glucose shortage may also impact astrocytes in addition to neurons and discuss the expected negative biochemical consequences of compromised astrocytic glucose transport for neurons. Based on these effects, auxiliary fuels are needed for both cell types and adding medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) to ketogenic diets is a biochemically superior treatment for Glut1DS compared to classical ketogenic diets. MCTs provide medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which are largely metabolized by astrocytes and not neurons. MCFAs supply energy and contribute carbons for glutamine and γ-aminobutyric acid synthesis, and decanoic acid can also block α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid glutamate receptors. MCTs do not compete with metabolism of ketone bodies mostly occurring in neurons. Triheptanoin, an anaplerotic but also gluconeogenic uneven MCT, may be another potential addition to ketogenic diets, although maintenance of “ketosis” can be difficult. Gene therapy has also targeted both endothelial cells and astrocytes. Other approaches to increase fuel delivery to the brain currently investigated include exchange of Glut1DS erythrocytes with healthy cells, infusion of lactate, and pharmacological improvement of glucose transport. In conclusion, although it remains difficult to assess impaired astrocytic energy metabolism in vivo, astrocytic energy needs are most likely not met by ketogenic diets in Glut1DS. Thus, we propose prospective studies including monitoring of blood MCFA levels to find optimal doses for add-on MCT to ketogenic diets and assessing of short- and long-term outcomes.