Molecular and Functional Properties of Regional Astrocytes in the Adult Brain

J Neurosci. 2017 Sep 6;37(36):8706-8717. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3956-16.2017. Epub 2017 Aug 7.


The molecular signature and functional properties of astroglial subtypes in the adult CNS remain largely undefined. By using translational ribosome affinity purification followed by RNA-Seq, we profiled astroglial ribosome-associated (presumably translating) mRNAs in major cortical and subcortical brain regions (cortex, hippocampus, caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens, thalamus, and hypothalamus) of BAC aldh1l1-translational ribosome affinity purification (TRAP) mice (both sexes). We found that the expression of astroglial translating mRNAs closely follows the dorsoventral axis, especially from cortex/hippocampus to thalamus/hypothalamus posteriorly. This region-specific expression pattern of genes, such as synaptogenic modulator sparc and transcriptional factors (emx2, lhx2, and hopx), was validated by qRT-PCR and immunostaining in brain sections. Interestingly, cortical or subcortical astrocytes selectively promote neurite growth and synaptic activity of neurons only from the same region in mismatched cocultures, exhibiting region-matched astrocyte to neuron communication. Overall, these results generated new molecular signature of astrocyte types in the adult CNS, providing insights into their origin and functional diversity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT We investigated the in vivo molecular and functional heterogeneity of astrocytes inter-regionally from adult brain. Our results showed that the expression pattern of ribosome-associated mRNA profiles in astrocytes closely follows the dorsoventral axis, especially posteriorly from cortex/hippocampus to thalamus/hypothalamus. In line with this, our functional results further demonstrated region-selective roles of cortical and subcortical astrocytes in regulating cortical or subcortical neuronal synaptogenesis and maturation. These in vivo studies provide a previously uncharacterized and important molecular atlas for exploring region-specific astroglial functions.

Keywords: RNA-seq; TRAP; astrocyte; dorsoventral axis; heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / classification
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice / metabolism*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Transcription Factors