Glutamate and glutamine: a review of in vivo MRS in the human brain

Ramadan S, Lin A, Stanwell P

NMR Biomed 2013 Dec;26(12):1630-46

PMID: 24123328


Our understanding of the roles that the amino acids glutamate (Glu) and glutamine (Gln) play in the mammalian central nervous system has increased rapidly in recent times. Many conditions are known to exhibit a disturbance in Glu-Gln equilibrium, and the exact relationships between these changed conditions and these amino acids are not fully understood. This has led to increased interest in Glu/Gln quantitation in the human brain in an array of conditions (e.g. mental illness, tumor, neuro-degeneration) as well as in normal brain function. Accordingly, this review has been undertaken to describe the increasing number of in vivo techniques available to study Glu and Gln separately, or pooled as ‘Glx’. The present MRS methods used to assess Glu and Gln vary in approach, complexity, and outcome, thus the focus of this review is on a description of MRS acquisition approaches, and an indication of relative utility of each technique rather than brain pathologies associated with Glu and/or Gln perturbation. Consequently, this review focuses particularly on (1) one-dimensional (1)H MRS, (2) two-dimensional (1)H MRS, and (3) one-dimensional (13)C MRS techniques.