Astroglial processes show spontaneous motility at active synaptic terminals in situ

Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Oct;20(8):2235-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2004.03689.x.


Within the tripartite structure of vertebrate synapses, enwrapping astroglial processes regulate synaptic transmission by transmitter uptake and by direct transmitter release. We applied confocal and two-photon laser scanning microscopy to acutely isolated slices prepared from the brainstem of transgenic TgN(GFAP-EGFP) mice. In transversal sections fluorescently labelled astrocytes are evenly distributed throughout the tissue. Astroglial processes contacted neuronal somata and enwrapped active synaptic terminals as visualized using FM1-43 staining in situ. Here, at these synaptic regions astroglial process endings displayed a high degree of dynamic morphological changes. Two defined modes of spontaneous motility could be distinguished: (i) gliding of thin lamellipodia-like membrane protrusions along neuronal surfaces and (ii) transient extensions of filopodia-like processes into the neuronal environment. Our observations highlight the active role of astrocytes in direct modulation of synaptic transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology*