Shapes of astrocyte networks in the juvenile brain

Neuron Glia Biol. 2006 Feb;2(1):3-14. doi: 10.1017/S1740925X06000081.


The high level of intercellular communication mediated by gap junctions between astrocytes indicates that, besides individual astrocytic domains, a second level of organization might exist for these glial cells as they form communicating networks. Therefore,the contribution of astrocytes to brain function should also be considered to result from coordinated groups of cells. To evaluate the shape and extent of these networks we have studied the expression of connexin 43, a major gap junction protein in astrocytes, and the intercellular diffusion of gap junction tracers in two structures of the developing brain, the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex. We report that the shape of astrocytic networks depends on their location within neuronal compartments ina defined brain structure. Interestingly, not all astrocytes are coupled, which indicates that connections within these networks are restricted. As gap junctional communication in astrocytes is reported to contribute to several glial functions, differences in the shape of astrocytic networks might have consequences on neuronal activity and survival.