Glycogen in glial cells is the largest store of glucose equivalents in the brain. Here we describe evidence that brain glycogen contributes to aerobic energy metabolism of the guinea pig brain in vivo. Five min after an intra-arterial bolus injection of d-[U-14C]glucose, 28+/-11% of the radioactivity in brain tissue was associated with the glycogen fraction, indicating that a significant proportion of labelled glucose taken up by the brain is converted to glycogen shortly after bolus infusion. Incorporation of 13C-label into lactate generated by brains made ischaemic after d-[1-13C]glucose injection confirms that these glucose equivalents can be mobilised for anaerobic glucose metabolism. Aerobic metabolism was monitored by following the time course of 13C-incorporation into glutamate in guinea pig cortex and cerebellum in vivo. After an intra-arterial bolus injection of d-[1-13C]glucose, glutamate labelling reached a maximum 40-60 min after injection, suggesting that a slowly metabolised pool of labelled glucose equivalents was present. As the concentration of 13C-labelled glucose in blood was shown to decrease below detectable levels within 5 min of bolus injection, this late phase of glutamate labelling must occur with mobilisation of a brain storage pool of labelled glucose equivalents. We interpret this as evidence that glucose equivalents in glycogen may contribute to energy metabolism in the aerobic guinea pig brain.