A distinct astrocyte subtype in the aging mouse brain characterized by impaired protein homeostasis

Nat Aging. 2022 Aug;2(8):726-741. doi: 10.1038/s43587-022-00257-1. Epub 2022 Aug 1.


The aging brain exhibits a region-specific reduction in synapse number and plasticity. Although astrocytes play central roles in regulating synapses, it is unclear how changes in astrocytes contribute to age-dependent cognitive decline and vulnerability to neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we identified a unique astrocyte subtype that exhibits dysregulated autophagy and morphology in aging hippocampus. In these autophagy-dysregulated astrocytes (APDAs), autophagosomes abnormally accumulate in swollen processes, impairing protein trafficking and secretion. We found that reduced mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and proteasome activities with lysosomal dysfunction generate APDAs in an age-dependent manner. Secretion of synaptogenic molecules and astrocytic synapse elimination were significantly impaired in APDAs, suggesting that APDAs have lost their ability to control synapse number and homeostasis. Indeed, excitatory synapses and dendritic spines associated with APDAs were significantly reduced. Finally, we found that mouse brains with Alzheimer's disease showed a significantly accelerated increase in APDAs, suggesting potential roles for APDAs in age- and Alzheimer's disease-related cognitive decline and synaptic pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Proteostasis