Astrocytes are abundant cells in the brain that regulate multiple aspects of neural tissue homeostasis by providing structural and metabolic support to neurons, maintaining synaptic environments and regulating blood flow. Recent evidence indicates that astrocytes also actively participate in brain functions and play a key role in brain disease by responding to neuronal activities and brain insults. Astrocytes become reactive in response to injury and inflammation, which is typically described as hypertrophy with increased expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). Reactive astrocytes are frequently found in many neurological disorders and are a hallmark of brain disease. Furthermore, reactive astrocytes may drive the initiation and progression of disease processes. Recent improvements in the methods to visualize the activity of reactive astrocytes in situ and in vivo have helped elucidate their functions. Ca2+ signals in reactive astrocytes are closely related to multiple aspects of disease and can be a good indicator of disease severity/state. In this review, we summarize recent findings concerning reactive astrocyte Ca2+ signals. We discuss the molecular mechanisms underlying aberrant Ca2+ signals in reactive astrocytes and the functional significance of aberrant Ca2+ signals in neurological disorders.
Keywords: Alexander disease; calcium signals; epilepsy; reactive astrocytes.