Astrocytes are a diverse and heterogeneous type of glial cells. The major task of grey and white matter areas in the brain are computation of information at neuronal synapses and propagation of action potentials along axons, respectively, resulting in diverse demands for astrocytes. Adapting their function to the requirements in the local environment, astrocytes differ in morphology, gene expression, metabolism, and many other properties. Here we review the differential properties of protoplasmic astrocytes of grey matter and fibrous astrocytes located in white matter in respect to glutamate and energy metabolism, to their function at the blood-brain interface and to coupling via gap junctions. Finally, we discuss how this astrocytic heterogeneity might contribute to the different susceptibility of grey and white matter to ischemic insults.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Grey matter; Heterogeneity; Oligodendrocytes; White matter.