Diversity and Specificity of Astrocyte-neuron Communication

Neuroscience. 2019 Jan 1;396:73-78. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.11.010. Epub 2018 Nov 17.


Astrocytes are emerging as important players in synaptic function, and, consequently, on brain function and animal behavior. According to the Tripartite Synapse concept, astrocytes are integral elements involved in synaptic function. They establish bidirectional communication with neurons, whereby they respond to synaptically released neurotransmitters and, in turn, release gliotransmitters that influence neuronal and synaptic activity. Accumulating evidence is revealing that the mechanisms and functional consequences of astrocyte-neuron signaling are more complex than originally thought. Furthermore, astrocyte-neuron signaling is not based on broad, unspecific interaction; rather, it is a synapse-, cell- and circuit-specific phenomenon that presents a high degree of complexity. This diversity and complexity of astrocyte-synapse interactions greatly enhance the degrees of freedom of the neural circuits and the consequent computational power of the neural systems.

Keywords: astrocytes; astrocyte–neuron signaling; glia; gliotransmission; synaptic plasticity; synaptic transmission.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology