Structural organization of the perivascular astrocyte endfeet and their relationship with the endothelial glucose transporter: a confocal microscopy study

Glia. 1998 May;23(1):1-10.


Despite the increasing evidence for a prominent role played by the perivascular endfeet of astrocytes in the functional metabolic coupling between astrocytes and neurons, a clear picture of their spatial organization is still lacking. To examine the three-dimensional structure of the astrocyte endfeet and their relationships with the endothelial cells, coronal rat brain sections immunolabeled for the two astroglial markers [glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)/S-100beta] and the endothelial glucose transporter (GLUT1) were analyzed under the confocal microscope. Double immunolabeling of GFAP and S-100beta showed numerous well-defined astrocytes sending one or more endfeet to the vasculature. Examination of GFAP immunolabeling at higher magnification showed that these endfeet consist of well-defined rosette-like structures lying on the vessel wall. Double immunostaining of GFAP and GLUT1 showed that the endothelial cells were the main targets of these repeated geometrical units formed by the astrocyte endfeet. When three-dimensional images were reconstructed, obvious privileged anatomical relationships were observed between endfeet and individual endothelial cells. These anatomical data provide strong support for the involvement of astrocytes in cerebral metabolic coupling. The finger-like appearance of astrocyte endfeet could allow direct metabolic exchanges between intracerebral vessels and non-glial elements such as nerve terminals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / physiology*
  • Astrocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • Cell Communication
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / ultrastructure
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / analysis
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit
  • S100 Proteins / analysis


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • S100 Calcium Binding Protein beta Subunit
  • S100 Proteins
  • Slc2a1 protein, rat