Nrf2 regulates glucose uptake and metabolism in neurons and astrocytes

Noemí Esteras (Lead / Corresponding author), Thomas S. Blacker, Evgeny A. Zherebtsov, Olga A. Stelmashuk, Ying Zhang, W. Christian Wigley, Michael R. Duchen, Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova, Andrey Y. Abramov (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
104 Downloads (Pure)


The transcription factor Nrf2 and its repressor Keap1 mediate cell stress adaptation by inducing expression of genes regulating cellular detoxification, antioxidant defence and energy metabolism. Energy production and antioxidant defence employ NADH and NADPH respectively as essential metabolic cofactors; both are generated in distinct pathways of glucose metabolism, and both pathways are enhanced by Nrf2 activation. Here, we examined the role of Nrf2 on glucose distribution and the interrelation between NADH production in energy metabolism and NADPH homeostasis using glio-neuronal cultures isolated from wild-type, Nrf2-knockout and Keap1-knockdown mice. Employing advanced microscopy imaging of single live cells, including multiphoton fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) to discriminate between NADH and NADPH, we found that Nrf2 activation increases glucose uptake into neurons and astrocytes. Glucose consumption is prioritized in brain cells for mitochondrial NADH and energy production, with a smaller contribution to NADPH synthesis in the pentose phosphate pathway for redox reactions. As Nrf2 is suppressed during neuronal development, this strategy leaves neurons reliant on astrocytic Nrf2 to maintain redox balance and energy homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102672
Number of pages13
JournalRedox Biology
Early online date14 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Astrocytes
  • Brain
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Mitochondria
  • NADH
  • Neurons
  • Nrf2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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