Microglia modulate gliotransmission through the regulation of VAMP2 proteins in astrocytes

Glia. 2021 Jan;69(1):61-72. doi: 10.1002/glia.23884. Epub 2020 Jul 7.


Vesicular release is one of the release mechanisms of various signaling molecules. In neurons, the molecular machinery involved in vesicular release has been designed through evolution to trigger fast and synchronous release of neurotransmitters. Similar machinery with a slower kinetic and a slightly different molecular assembly allows astrocytes to release various transmitters such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), glutamate, and D-serine. Astrocytes are important modulators of neurotransmission through gliotransmitter release. We recently demonstrated that microglia, another type of glia, release ATP to modulate synaptic transmission using astrocytes as intermediate. We now report that microglia regulate astrocytic gliotransmission through the regulation of SNARE proteins in astrocytes. Indeed, we found that gliotransmission triggered by P2Y1 agonist is impaired in slices from transgenic mice devoid of microglia. Using total internal reflection fluorescence imaging, we found that the vesicular release of gliotransmitter by astrocytes was different in cultures lacking microglia compared to vesicular release in astrocytes cocultured with microglia. Quantification of the kinetic of vesicular release indicates that the overall release appears to be faster in pure astrocyte cultures with more vesicles close to the membrane when compared to astrocytes cocultured with microglia. Finally, biochemical investigation of SNARE protein expression indicates an upregulation of VAMP2 in absence of microglia. Altogether, these results indicate that microglia seems to be involved in the regulation of an astrocytic phenotype compatible with proper gliotransmission. The mechanisms described in this study could be of importance for central nervous system diseases where microglia are activated.

Keywords: TIRF microscopy; glutamate; neuron-glia interaction; vesicular release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes*
  • Mice
  • Microglia*
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 2


  • SNARE Proteins
  • Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 2
  • vesicle-associated membrane protein 2, mouse
  • Adenosine Triphosphate