Astrocyte dysfunction in Alzheimer disease

J Neurosci Res. 2017 Dec;95(12):2430-2447. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24075. Epub 2017 May 3.


Astrocytes are glial cells that are distributed throughout the central nervous system in an arrangement optimal for chemical and physical interaction with neuronal synapses and brain blood supply vessels. Neurotransmission modulates astrocytic excitability by activating an array of cell surface receptors and transporter proteins, resulting in dynamic changes in intracellular Ca2+ or Na+ . Ionic and electrogenic astrocytic changes, in turn, drive vital cell nonautonomous effects supporting brain function, including regulation of synaptic activity, neuronal metabolism, and regional blood supply. Alzheimer disease (AD) is associated with aberrant oligomeric amyloid β generation, which leads to extensive proliferation of astrocytes with a reactive phenotype and abnormal regulation of these processes. Astrocytic morphology, Ca2+ responses, extracellular K+ removal, glutamate transport, amyloid clearance, and energy metabolism are all affected in AD, resulting in a deleterious set of effects that includes glutamate excitotoxicity, impaired synaptic plasticity, reduced carbon delivery to neurons for oxidative phosphorylation, and dysregulated linkages between neuronal energy demand and regional blood supply. This review summarizes how astrocytes are affected in AD and describes how these changes are likely to influence brain function. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; amyloid; astrocytes; cerebral blood flow; dementia; energy metabolism; excitotoxicity; gliosis; neuroinflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Astrocytes / pathology*
  • Humans