Astrocyte responses to neuronal activity

Glia. 2004 Aug 15;47(3):226-32. doi: 10.1002/glia.20029.


During the past few years, it has been established that astrocytes sense neuronal activity and are involved in signal transmission. Neuronal stimulation triggered electrophysiological and/or Ca(2+) responses in astrocyte cultures and in acute brain slices. Present even within one given brain region, different pathways of neuron-to-astrocyte communication involving different receptor systems have been described. These mechanisms include glutamatergic and NO-mediated signaling. Neuron-to-astrocyte signaling can be confined to subcellular compartments, the microdomains, or it can activate the entire cell. It can even trigger a multicellular response in astrocytes, a Ca(2+) wave. This form of astrocyte long-range signal propagation can occur independently, in pure astrocyte cultures, but it can also be triggered by neuronal activity. Astrocytes also exhibit spontaneous Ca(2+) activity. Neuronal activity in acute brain slices can organize this activity into complex synchronous networks. One of the functional consequences of neuron-to-astrocyte signaling might be the neuronal control of microcirculation using astrocytes as a mediator.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology