Background: Activation of G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) in astrocytes leads to Ca(2+)-dependent glutamate release via Bestrophin 1 (Best1) channel. Whether receptor-mediated glutamate release from astrocytes can regulate synaptic plasticity remains to be fully understood.
Results: We show here that Best1-mediated astrocytic glutamate activates the synaptic N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and modulates NMDAR-dependent synaptic plasticity. Our data show that activation of the protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR1) in hippocampal CA1 astrocytes elevates the glutamate concentration at Schaffer collateral-CA1 (SC-CA1) synapses, resulting in activation of GluN2A-containing NMDARs and NMDAR-dependent potentiation of synaptic responses. Furthermore, the threshold for inducing NMDAR-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP) is lowered when astrocytic glutamate release accompanied LTP induction, suggesting that astrocytic glutamate is significant in modulating synaptic plasticity.
Conclusions: Our results provide direct evidence for the physiological importance of channel-mediated astrocytic glutamate in modulating neural circuit functions.