In the present review evidence is presented that (1) glutamine synthesis in astrocytes is essential for synthesis of GABA in neurons; (2) α-ketoglutarate in the presence of alanine (as an amino group donor) can replace glutamine as a precursor for synthesis of transmitter glutamate, but maybe not as a precursor for transmitter GABA; (3) differences exist in the intraneuronal metabolic pathways for utilization of α-ketoglutarate plus alanine and of glutamine, and (4) alanine also functions as a substrate for oxidative metabolism in glutamatergic neurons. It should be emphasized that the supply of precursors for transmitter glutamate and GABA in glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons depends on metabolic processes in astrocytes regardless whether glutamine or α-ketoglutarate plus L-alanine function as the transmitter precursors. The key reason that an interaction with astrocytes is essential is that both pyruvate carboxylase, the major enzyme in the brain for net synthesis of tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates, and glutamine synthetase, the enzyme forming glutamine from glutamate, are specifically located in astrocytes, but not in neurons.

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