Neuron-glia interrelations

Int Rev Neurobiol. 1988:30:149-224.


Considerable progress in our understanding of neuron and glial cell interrelationships has emerged during the last decade from in vitro and in vivo studies. Neural culture systems have provided powerful tools to delineate cellular and molecular events. Moreover, the advances in development of immunocytochemical and biochemical specific cell markers has made possible the characterization of complex cell behaviors. Glial cells actively participate in several aspects of neuronal growth and differentiation both by providing cell-cell contact interactions and by secreting neuronal growth-promoting factors. In turn, neurons influence the cellular behavior of both astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, primarily by secreting substances into the microenvironment. Such substances as neurohormones and neurotransmitters have been shown to affect several glial functions including electrophysiological responses, energy metabolism, and ionic homeostasis. In several instances these effects appear to be mediated through receptors on glial cells. Astrocytes actively participate in the regulation of the ionic environment. They take up and release several neurotransmitter substances and can modulate the concentration of a neurotransmitter substance at the synaptic cleft and thus monitor neuronal activity. The evidence of neuron-astroglia synaptic contacts supports the view that such contacts are present during early neuroembryogenesis and thus may provide contact signals for neuronal growth. The process of myelination in the CNS appears to be regulated by both neuronal signals to the oligodendrocyte and also intrinsic programming in the oligodendrocytes to produce myelin components. The prevailing view that astrocytes impede regeneration appears to be shifting towards a more favorable notion of the role of these cells in promoting this process. Of interest is the concept that there is a critical period in the ability of astrocytes either to enhance regeneration or to form a gliotic scar and impede this process. The role of glial cells in the aging process of the neuron is only beginning to be appreciated. If glial cells are actively involved in the regulation of the microenvironment, then it follows that any changes in the behavior of glial cells with aging will ultimately affect neuronal function. It is abundantly clear from in vitro studies that glial cells are pluripotential cells with several functional capabilities. Their responsiveness to an environment in which neurons are maturing as compared to an environment where neurons are injured or aging clearly portrays the multifunctional role of the astrocyte.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication*
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*