As part of the blood-brain-barrier, astrocytes are ideally positioned between cerebral vasculature and neuronal synapses to mediate nutrient uptake from the systemic circulation. In addition, astrocytes have a robust enzymatic capacity of glycolysis, glycogenesis and lipid metabolism, managing nutrient support in the brain parenchyma for neuronal consumption. Here, we review the plasticity of astrocyte energy metabolism under physiologic and pathologic conditions, highlighting age-dependent brain dysfunctions. In astrocytes, glycolysis and glycogenesis are regulated by noradrenaline and insulin, respectively, while mitochondrial ATP production and fatty acid oxidation are influenced by the thyroid hormone. These regulations are essential for maintaining normal brain activities, and impairments of these processes may lead to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Metabolic plasticity is also associated with (re)activation of astrocytes, a process associated with pathologic events. It is likely that the recently described neurodegenerative and neuroprotective subpopulations of reactive astrocytes metabolize distinct energy substrates, and that this preference is supposed to explain some of their impacts on pathologic processes. Importantly, physiologic and pathologic properties of astrocytic metabolic plasticity bear translational potential in defining new potential diagnostic biomarkers and novel therapeutic targets to mitigate neurodegeneration and age-related brain dysfunctions.
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