Astrocytes control synaptic strength by two distinct v-SNARE-dependent release pathways

Nat Neurosci. 2017 Nov;20(11):1529-1539. doi: 10.1038/nn.4647. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


Communication between glia cells and neurons is crucial for brain functions, but the molecular mechanisms and functional consequences of gliotransmission remain enigmatic. Here we report that astrocytes express synaptobrevin II and cellubrevin as functionally non-overlapping vesicular SNARE proteins on glutamatergic vesicles and neuropeptide Y-containing large dense-core vesicles, respectively. Using individual null-mutants for Vamp2 (synaptobrevin II) and Vamp3 (cellubrevin), as well as the corresponding compound null-mutant for genes encoding both v-SNARE proteins, we delineate previously unrecognized individual v-SNARE dependencies of astrocytic release processes and their functional impact on neuronal signaling. Specifically, we show that astroglial cellubrevin-dependent neuropeptide Y secretion diminishes synaptic signaling, while synaptobrevin II-dependent glutamate release from astrocytes enhances synaptic signaling. Our experiments thereby uncover the molecular mechanisms of two distinct v-SNARE-dependent astrocytic release pathways that oppositely control synaptic strength at presynaptic sites, elucidating new avenues of communication between astrocytes and neurons.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Diphosphate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Xanthines


  • SNARE Proteins
  • Xanthines
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • 1,3-dipropyl-8-cyclopentylxanthine