Astrocytes respond to neuronal activity and were shown to be necessary for plasticity and memory. To test whether astrocytic activity is also sufficient to generate synaptic potentiation and enhance memory, we expressed the Gq-coupled receptor hM3Dq in CA1 astrocytes, allowing their activation by a designer drug. We discovered that astrocytic activation is not only necessary for synaptic plasticity, but also sufficient to induce NMDA-dependent de novo long-term potentiation in the hippocampus that persisted after astrocytic activation ceased. In vivo, astrocytic activation enhanced memory allocation; i.e., it increased neuronal activity in a task-specific way only when coupled with learning, but not in home-caged mice. Furthermore, astrocytic activation using either a chemogenetic or an optogenetic tool during acquisition resulted in memory recall enhancement on the following day. Conversely, directly increasing neuronal activity resulted in dramatic memory impairment. Our findings that astrocytes induce plasticity and enhance memory may have important clinical implications for cognitive augmentation treatments.
Keywords: LTP; OptoXR; cFos; calcium imaging; chemogenetics; fear conditioning; hippocampus; memory allocation; miniature EPSCs; optogenetics.
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