Do astrocytes really exocytose neurotransmitters?

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2010 Apr;11(4):227-38. doi: 10.1038/nrn2803.


In the past 20 years, an extra layer of information processing, in addition to that provided by neurons, has been proposed for the CNS. Neuronally evoked increases of the intracellular calcium concentration in astrocytes have been suggested to trigger exocytotic release of the 'gliotransmitters' glutamate, ATP and D-serine. These are proposed to modulate neuronal excitability and transmitter release, and to have a role in diseases as diverse as stroke, epilepsy, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and HIV infection. However, there is intense controversy about whether astrocytes can exocytose transmitters in vivo. Resolving this issue would considerably advance our understanding of brain function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Exocytosis*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Serine / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Proteins / metabolism


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Vesicular Glutamate Transport Proteins
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Serine
  • Adenosine Triphosphate