Mature astrocytes as source for astrocyte repopulation after deletion in the medial prefrontal cortex: Implications for depression

Glia. 2024 May 27. doi: 10.1002/glia.24573. Online ahead of print.


The adult brain retains a high repopulation capacity of astrocytes after deletion, and both mature astrocytes in the neocortex and neural stem cells in neurogenic regions possess the potential to generate astrocytes. However, the origin and the repopulation dynamics of the repopulating astrocytes after deletion remain largely unclear. The number of astrocytes is reduced in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of patients with depression, and selective elimination of mPFC astrocytes is sufficient to induce depression-like behaviors in rodents. However, whether astrocyte repopulation capacity is impaired in depression is unknown. In this study, we used different transgenic mouse lines to genetically label different cell types and demonstrated that in the mPFC of normal adult mice of both sexes, mature astrocytes were a major source of the repopulating astrocytes after acute deletion induced by an astrocyte-specific toxin, L-alpha-aminoadipic acid (L-AAA), and astrocyte regeneration was accomplished within two weeks accompanied by reversal of depression-like behaviors. Furthermore, re-ablation of mPFC astrocytes post repopulation led to reappearance of depression-like behaviors. In adult male mice subjected to 14-day chronic restraint stress, a well-validated mouse model of depression, the number of mPFC astrocytes was reduced; however, the ability of mPFC astrocytes to repopulate after L-AAA-induced deletion was largely unaltered. Our study highlights a potentially beneficial role for repopulating astrocytes in depression and provides novel therapeutic insights into enhancing local mature astrocyte generation in depression.

Keywords: L‐alpha‐aminoadipic acid; astrocytes; chronic restraint stress; depression; medial prefrontal cortex; neural stem cells; regeneration.