Complex and regional-specific changes in the morphological complexity of GFAP+ astrocytes in middle-aged mice

Neurobiol Aging. 2021 Apr:100:59-71. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.12.018. Epub 2020 Dec 30.


During aging, alterations in astrocyte phenotype occur in areas associated with age-related cognitive decline, including hippocampus. Previous work reported subregion-specific changes in surface, volume, and soma size of hippocampal astrocytes during physiological aging. Herein we extensively analyzed, by morphometric analysis, fine morphological features of GFAP+ astrocytes in young (6-month-old) and middle-aged (14-month-old) male mice. We observed remarkable heterogeneity in the astrocytic response to aging in distinct subfields and along the dorsoventral axis of hippocampus and in entorhinal cortex. In middle-aged mice dorsal granule cell and molecular layers, but not hilus, astrocytes underwent remarkable increase in their morphological complexity. These changes were absent in ventral Dentate Gyrus (DG). In addition, in entorhinal cortex, the major input to dorsal DG, astrocytes underwent remarkable atrophic changes in middle-aged mice. Since dorsal DG, and not ventral DG, is involved in cognitive functions, these findings appear worth of further evaluation. Our findings also suggest an additional level of complexity in the structural changes associated with brain aging.

Keywords: Aging; Astrocyte; Dentate gyrus; Dorsal hippocampus; Morphometry; Neurogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / pathology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / pathology*
  • Dentate Gyrus
  • Entorhinal Cortex / cytology
  • Entorhinal Cortex / metabolism
  • Entorhinal Cortex / pathology
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • glial fibrillary astrocytic protein, mouse