Astrocyte heterogeneity: an underappreciated topic in neurobiology

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2010 Oct;20(5):588-94. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2010.06.005. Epub 2010 Jul 23.


Astrocytes, one of the most numerous types of cells in the central nervous system, are crucial for potassium homeostasis, neurotransmitter uptake, synapse formation, regulation of blood-brain-barrier, and the development of the nervous system. Historically, astrocytes have been studied as a homogeneous group of cells. However, evidence has accumulated that suggests heterogeneity of astrocytes across brain regions as well as within the same brain regions. Astrocytes differ in their morphology, developmental origin, gene expression profile, physiological properties, function, and response to injury and disease. A better understanding of the heterogeneity of astrocytes will greatly aid investigation of the function of astrocytes in normal brain as well as the roles of astrocytes in neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Lineage / physiology*
  • Cell Shape / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*