Local and CNS-Wide Astrocyte Intracellular Calcium Signaling Attenuation In Vivo with CalExflox Mice

J Neurosci. 2021 May 26;41(21):4556-4574. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0085-21.2021. Epub 2021 Apr 26.


Astrocytes exist throughout the CNS and affect neural circuits and behavior through intracellular Ca2+ signaling. Studying the function(s) of astrocyte Ca2+ signaling has proven difficult because of the paucity of tools to achieve selective attenuation. Based on recent studies, we generated and used male and female knock-in mice for Cre-dependent expression of mCherry-tagged hPMCA2w/b to attenuate astrocyte Ca2+ signaling in genetically defined cells in vivo (CalExflox mice for Calcium Extrusion). We characterized CalExflox mice following local AAV-Cre microinjections into the striatum and found reduced astrocyte Ca2+ signaling (∼90%) accompanied with repetitive self-grooming behavior. We also crossed CalExflox mice to astrocyte-specific Aldh1l1-Cre/ERT2 mice to achieve inducible global CNS-wide Ca2+ signaling attenuation. Within 6 d of induction in the bigenic mice, we observed significantly altered ambulation in the open field, disrupted motor coordination and gait, and premature lethality. Furthermore, with histologic, imaging, and transcriptomic analyses, we identified cellular and molecular alterations in the cerebellum following mCherry-tagged hPMCA2w/b expression. Our data show that expression of mCherry-tagged hPMCA2w/b with CalExflox mice throughout the CNS resulted in substantial attenuation of astrocyte Ca2+ signaling and significant behavioral alterations in adult mice. We interpreted these findings candidly in relation to the ability of CalEx to attenuate astrocyte Ca2+ signaling, with regards to additional mechanistic interpretations of the data, and their relation to past studies that reduced astrocyte Ca2+ signaling throughout the CNS. The data and resources provide complementary ways to interrogate the function(s) of astrocytes in multiple experimental scenarios.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Astrocytes represent a significant fraction of all brain cells and tile the entire central nervous system. Unlike neurons, astrocytes lack propagated electrical signals. Instead, astrocytes are proposed to use diverse and dynamic intracellular Ca2+ signals to communicate with other cells. An open question concerns if and how astrocyte Ca2+ signaling regulates behavior in adult mice. We approached this problem by generating a new transgenic mouse line to achieve inducible astrocyte Ca2+ signaling attenuation in vivo We report our data with this mouse line and we interpret the findings candidly in relation to past studies and within the framework of different mechanistic interpretations.

Keywords: Aldh1l1-Cre/ERT2; astrocyte; calcium; striatum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL