In astrocytes, thrombin leads to cytoplasmic Ca(2+) elevations modulating a variety of cytoprotective and cytotoxic responses. Astrocytes respond to thrombin stimulation with a biphasic Ca(2+) increase generated by an interplay between ER-Ca(2+) release and store-operated Ca(2+) entry (SOCE). In many cell types, STIM1 and Orai1 have been demonstrated to be central components of SOCE. STIM1 senses the ER-Ca(2+) depletion and binds Orai1 to activate Ca(2+) influx. Here we used immunocytochemistry, overexpression and siRNA assays to investigate the role of STIM1 and Orai1 in the thrombin-induced Ca(2+) response in primary cultures of rat cortical astrocytes. We found that STIM1 and Orai1 are endogenously expressed in cortical astrocytes and distribute accordingly with other mammalian cells. Importantly, native and overexpressed STIM1 reorganized in puncta under thrombin stimulation and this reorganization was reversible. In addition, the overexpression of STIM1 and Orai1 increased by twofold the Ca(2+) influx evoked by thrombin, while knockdown of endogenous STIM1 and Orai1 significantly decreased this Ca(2+) influx. These results indicate that STIM1 and Orai1 underlie an important fraction of the Ca(2+) response that astrocytes exhibit in the presence of thrombin. Thrombin stimulation in astrocytes leads to ER-Ca(2+) release which causes STIM1 reorganization allowing the activation of Orai1 and the subsequent Ca(2+) influx.
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