To determine the distribution of cerebral glucose and lactate between the intracellular and the extracellular space of the rat brain in vivo, the diffusion characteristic of glucose and lactate was compared with that of metabolites known to be mainly intracellular (N-acetylaspartate, choline, creatine, glutamate, myo-inositol, and taurine) using a pulsed-field-gradient 1H nuclear magnetic resonance technique. The detection of a glucose signal at large diffusion weighting provided direct experimental evidence of intracellular glucose in the rat brain. At large diffusion weighting, the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of glucose and lactate was similar to that of the intracellular metabolites such as N-acetylaspartate, creatine, and glutamate. At small diffusion weighting, the ADC of glucose and lactate was increased, which was explained by a decreased relative contribution of intracellular glucose to the total signal. The calculated extracellular volume fraction of glucose (0.19 ± 0.05) and lactate (0.17 ± 0.06) was consistent with a substantial fraction of glucose and lactate signals being intracellular. The findings were direct in vivo evidence that the largest concentration gradient of glucose is at the blood-brain barrier and that glucose is evenly distributed in the brain in vivo between the intracellular and extracellular space.
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