Intracortical astrocyte subpopulations defined by astrocyte reporter Mice in the adult brain

Glia. 2019 Jan;67(1):171-181. doi: 10.1002/glia.23545. Epub 2018 Nov 14.


Although historically regarded as a homogeneous cell population, astrocytes in different brain regions exhibit differences in their physiological properties, such as gap-junction coupling, glutamate uptake dynamics, and intracellular Ca2+ response. Recent in vivo RNA profiles have further demonstrated the molecular heterogeneity of astrocytes in the adult CNS. Astrocyte heterogeneity exists not only inter-regionally but also intra-regionally. Despite the characteristic laminal organization of cortical layers and multiple sources of radial glia progenitors for (astro)gliogenesis, the molecular profile and functional properties of astroglial subpopulations in the adult cerebral cortex remain essentially undefined. Using two astrocyte reporter mouse lines: eaat2-tdTomato and Bac aldh1l1-eGFP, we identified tdT- eGFP+ , tdTlow eGFP+ , and tdThigh eGFP+ astroglial subpopulations (in an approximate 1:7:2 ratio) within the cortex. The tdT- eGFP+ astrocyte population is selectively localized at layers I-II and exhibits increased resting membrane potential and membrane resistance but reduced functional expression of the potassium channel Kir4.1. We also isolated individual astrocyte subpopulations through fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) and examined their transcriptome differences by RNA-seq. We found that the whole-genome transcriptional profiles of tdT- eGFP+ astrocytes are drastically different from that of tdTlow eGFP+ and tdThigh eGFP+ astrocytes. Particularly, elevated levels of several nonastrocyte genes that are typically specific to other glial cells, such as mog, mobp, Iba1, and pdgfrα, are observed in tdT- eGFP+ astrocytes, suggesting a less-specific molecular identity of these astrocytes. Overall, our study has unveiled molecular differences between adult cortical astroglial subpopulations, shedding new light on understanding their unique functions in the adult cortex.

Keywords: ALDH1L1; EAAT2; astrocyte diversity; cortex; transcriptional profile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / chemistry
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / chemistry
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Random Allocation