Diversity of astroglial functions alludes to subcellular specialisation

Trends Neurosci. 2014 Apr;37(4):228-42. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2014.02.008. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Rapid signal exchange between astroglia and neurons has emerged as an essential element of neural circuits of the brain. However, the increasing variety of mechanisms contributing to this signalling appears to be facing a conceptual stalemate. The communication medium of astroglia involves intracellular [Ca(2+)] waves, which until recently have been associated with slow, global [Ca(2+)] rises. How such a uniform trigger could handle fast and diverse molecular messages remains unexplained. Recent studies have, however, revealed a variety of apparently independent Ca(2+) activities within individual astrocytic compartments, also indicating the prevalence of subcellular segregation for some signalling mechanisms. These signs of intracellular compartmentalisation might provide the key to the multitude of adaptive roles played by astroglia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Space / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Subcellular Fractions / physiology


  • Calcium