Dysfunction of homeostatic control of dopamine by astrocytes in the developing prefrontal cortex leads to cognitive impairments

Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Apr;25(4):732-749. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0226-y. Epub 2018 Aug 20.


Astrocytes orchestrate neural development by powerfully coordinating synapse formation and function and, as such, may be critically involved in the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental abnormalities and cognitive deficits commonly observed in psychiatric disorders. Here, we report the identification of a subset of cortical astrocytes that are competent for regulating dopamine (DA) homeostasis during postnatal development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), allowing for optimal DA-mediated maturation of excitatory circuits. Such control of DA homeostasis occurs through the coordinated activity of astroglial vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) together with organic cation transporter 3 and monoamine oxidase type B, two key proteins for DA uptake and metabolism. Conditional deletion of VMAT2 in astrocytes postnatally produces loss of PFC DA homeostasis, leading to defective synaptic transmission and plasticity as well as impaired executive functions. Our findings show a novel role for PFC astrocytes in the DA modulation of cognitive performances with relevance to psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Homeostasis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Dopamine