Astrocyte development: A Guide for the Perplexed

Glia. 2015 Aug;63(8):1320-9. doi: 10.1002/glia.22836. Epub 2015 May 12.


Astrocytes are the predominant cell type in the brain and perform key functions vital to CNS physiology, including blood brain barrier formation and maintenance, synaptogenesis, neurotransmission, and metabolic regulation. To fully understand the contributions of astrocytes to brain function, it will be important to bridge the existing gap between development and physiology. In this review, we provide an overview of Astrocyte development, including recent insights into molecular mechanisms of astrocyte specification, regional patterning and proliferation. This developmental perspective is complemented with recent findings that describe the functional maturation of astrocytes and their prospective diversity. Future progress in understanding Astrocyte development will depend on the development of astrocyte- stage specific markers and tools for manipulating astrocytes without affecting neuron production. Ultimately, a mechanistic approach to Astrocyte development will be crucial to developing new treatments for the many neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, neuroimmune, and neoplastic diseases involving astrocyte dysfunction.

Keywords: glia; gliogenesis; neurogenesis; neuroglia; patterning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / physiology