Astrocytes can exocytotically release the gliotransmitter glutamate from vesicular compartments. Increased cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration is necessary and sufficient for this process. The predominant source of Ca(2+) for exocytosis in astrocytes resides within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and ryanodine receptors of the ER provide a conduit for the release of Ca(2+) to the cytosol. The ER store is (re)filled by the store-specific Ca(2+)-ATPase. Ultimately, the depleted ER is replenished by Ca(2+) which enters from the extracellular space to the cytosol via store-operated Ca(2+) entry; the TRPC1 protein has been implicated in this part of the astrocytic exocytotic process. Voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels and plasma membrane Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchangers are additional means for cytosolic Ca(2+) entry. Cytosolic Ca(2+) levels can be modulated by mitochondria, which can take up cytosolic Ca(2+) via the Ca(2+) uniporter and release Ca(2+) into cytosol via the mitochondrial Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger, as well as by the formation of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore. The interplay between various Ca(2+) sources generates cytosolic Ca(2+) dynamics that can drive Ca(2+)-dependent exocytotic release of glutamate from astrocytes. An understanding of this process in vivo will reveal some of the astrocytic functions in health and disease of the brain. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 11th European Symposium on Calcium.
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