Retinal tissue is exceptional because it shows a high level of energy metabolism. Glycogen content represents the only energy reserve in retina, but its levels are limited. Therefore, elucidation of the mechanisms controlling glycogen content in retina will allow us to understand retina response under local energy demands that can occur under normal and pathological conditions. Thus, we studied retina glycogen levels under different experimental conditions and correlated them with glucose-6-phosphate (G-6-P) content and glycogen synthase (GS) activity.Glycogen and G-6-P content were studied in ex vivo retinas from normal, fasted, streptozotocin-treated, and insulin-induced hypoglycemic rats. Expression levels of GS and its phosphorylated form were also analyzed. Ex vivo retina from normal rats showed low G-6-P (14+/-2 pmol/mg protein) and glycogen levels (43+/-3 nmol glycosyl residues/mg protein), which were increased 6 and 3 times, respectively, in streptozotocin diabetic rats. While no changes in phosphorylated GS levels were observed in any condition tested, a positive correlation was found between G-6-P levels with GS activity and glycogen content. The results indicated that in vivo, retina glycogen may act as an immediately accessible energy reserve and that its content was controlled primarily by G-6-P allosteric activation of GS. Therefore, under hypoglycemic situations retina energy supply is strongly compromised and could lead to the alterations observed in type 1 diabetes.