New roles for astrocytes: regulation of CNS synaptogenesis

Trends Neurosci. 2003 Oct;26(10):531-5. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2003.08.005.


The notion that astrocytes have a profound influence on the function of synapses between CNS neurons implies that the development of synaptic connections and their glial neighbors are controlled by reciprocally acting signals. Currently, however, synaptogenesis is considered a purely neuronal affair. This article summarizes recent experimental evidence suggesting that this may not be the case. Astrocytes may indeed regulate the formation, maturation and maintenance of synapses. The recent advances caution that synapses cannot develop correctly without astrocytes. Further progress on this issue requires new experimental models to identify signaling pathways and to scrutinize the relevance of glia-synapse interactions in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology*