Activation of astrocytes has a profound effect on brain plasticity and is critical for the pathophysiology of several neurological disorders including neuropathic pain. Here, we show that metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), which reemerges in astrocytes in a restricted time frame, is essential for these functions. Although mGluR5 is absent in healthy adult astrocytes, it transiently reemerges in astrocytes of the somatosensory cortex (S1). During a limited spatiotemporal time frame, astrocytic mGluR5 drives Ca2+ signals; upregulates multiple synaptogenic molecules such as Thrombospondin-1, Glypican-4, and Hevin; causes excess excitatory synaptogenesis; and produces persistent alteration of S1 neuronal activity, leading to mechanical allodynia. All of these events were abolished by the astrocyte-specific deletion of mGluR5. Astrocytes dynamically control synaptic plasticity by turning on and off a single molecule, mGluR5, which defines subsequent persistent brain functions, especially under pathological conditions.
© 2022 Danjo et al.