A Vector-Based Method to Analyze the Topography of Glial Networks

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Jun 10;20(11):2821. doi: 10.3390/ijms20112821.


Anisotropy of tracer-coupled networks is a hallmark in many brain regions. In the past, the topography of these networks was analyzed using various approaches, which focused on different aspects, e.g., position, tracer signal, or direction of coupled cells. Here, we developed a vector-based method to analyze the extent and preferential direction of tracer spreading. As a model region, we chose the lateral superior olive-a nucleus that exhibits specialized network topography. In acute slices, sulforhodamine 101-positive astrocytes were patch-clamped and dialyzed with the GJ-permeable tracer neurobiotin, which was subsequently labeled with avidin alexa fluor 488. A predetermined threshold was used to differentiate between tracer-coupled and tracer-uncoupled cells. Tracer extent was calculated from the vector means of tracer-coupled cells in four 90° sectors. We then computed the preferential direction using a rotating coordinate system and post hoc fitting of these results with a sinusoidal function. The new method allows for an objective analysis of tracer spreading that provides information about shape and orientation of GJ networks. We expect this approach to become a vital tool for the analysis of coupling anisotropy in many brain regions.

Keywords: LSO; anisotropy; astrocyte; connexin; gap junctions; lateral superior olive; neurobiotin; oligodendrocyte; sulforhodamine 101; tracer.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives
  • Biotin / pharmacokinetics
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*


  • neurobiotin
  • Biotin