Astrocytes restrict discharge duration and neuronal sodium loads during recurrent network activity

Glia. 2015 Jun;63(6):936-57. doi: 10.1002/glia.22793. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


Influx of sodium ions into active neurons is a highly energy-expensive process which must be strictly limited. Astrocytes could play an important role herein because they take up glutamate and potassium from the extracellular space, thereby dampening neuronal excitation. Here, we performed sodium imaging in mouse hippocampal slices combined with field potential and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and measurement of extracellular potassium ([K(+)]o). Network activity was induced by Mg(2+)-free, bicuculline-containing saline, during which neurons showed recurring epileptiform bursting, accompanied by transient increases in [K(+)]o and astrocyte depolarizations. During bursts, neurons displayed sodium increases by up to 22 mM. Astrocyte sodium concentration increased by up to 8.5 mM, which could be followed by an undershoot below baseline. Network sodium oscillations were dependent on action potentials and activation of ionotropic glutamate receptors. Inhibition of glutamate uptake caused acceleration, followed by cessation of electrical activity, irreversible sodium increases, and swelling of neurons. The gliotoxin NaFAc (sodium-fluoroacetate) resulted in elevation of astrocyte sodium concentration and reduced glial uptake of glutamate and potassium uptake through Na(+) /K(+)-ATPase. Moreover, NaFAc extended epileptiform bursts, caused elevation of neuronal sodium, and dramatically prolonged accompanying sodium signals, most likely because of the decreased clearance of glutamate and potassium by astrocytes. Our experiments establish that recurrent neuronal bursting evokes sodium transients in neurons and astrocytes and confirm the essential role of glutamate transporters for network activity. They suggest that astrocytes restrict discharge duration and show that an intact astrocyte metabolism is critical for the neurons' capacity to recover from sodium loads during synchronized activity.

Keywords: Na+/K+-ATPase; fluoroacetate; glutamate uptake; hippocampus; neurometabolic coupling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate / metabolism
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels / metabolism


  • Receptors, Ionotropic Glutamate
  • Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels
  • Sodium
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase
  • Potassium