An astrocyte-dependent mechanism for neuronal rhythmogenesis

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Jun;18(6):844-54. doi: 10.1038/nn.4013. Epub 2015 May 4.


Communication between neurons rests on their capacity to change their firing pattern to encode different messages. For several vital functions, such as respiration and mastication, neurons need to generate a rhythmic firing pattern. Here we show in the rat trigeminal sensori-motor circuit for mastication that this ability depends on regulation of the extracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)]e) by astrocytes. In this circuit, astrocytes respond to sensory stimuli that induce neuronal rhythmic activity, and their blockade with a Ca(2+) chelator prevents neurons from generating a rhythmic bursting pattern. This ability is restored by adding S100β, an astrocytic Ca(2+)-binding protein, to the extracellular space, while application of an anti-S100β antibody prevents generation of rhythmic activity. These results indicate that astrocytes regulate a fundamental neuronal property: the capacity to change firing pattern. These findings may have broad implications for many other neural networks whose functions depend on the generation of rhythmic activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cell Communication / drug effects
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Nerve Net / drug effects
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Periodicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit / antagonists & inhibitors
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit / physiology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / drug effects
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology


  • Chelating Agents
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit
  • S100b protein, rat
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Calcium