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      What do we know about gliotransmitter release from astrocytes?


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          Astrocytes participate in information processing by actively modulating synaptic properties via gliotransmitter release. Various mechanisms of astrocytic release have been reported, including release from storage organelles via exocytosis and release from the cytosol via plasma membrane ion channels and pumps. It is still not fully clear which mechanisms operate under which conditions, but some of them, being Ca 2+-regulated, may be physiologically relevant. The properties of Ca 2+-dependent transmitter release via exocytosis or via ion channels are different and expected to produce different extracellular transmitter concentrations over time and to have distinct functional consequences. The molecular aspects of these two release pathways are still under active investigation. Here, we discuss the existing morphological and functional evidence in support of either of them. Transgenic mouse models, specific antagonists and localization studies have provided insight into regulated exocytosis, albeit not in a systematic fashion. Even more remains to be uncovered about the details of channel-mediated release. Better functional tools and improved ultrastructural approaches are needed in order fully to define specific modalities and effects of astrocytic gliotransmitter release pathways.

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          Astrocytic purinergic signaling coordinates synaptic networks.

          To investigate the role of astrocytes in regulating synaptic transmission, we generated inducible transgenic mice that express a dominant-negative SNARE domain selectively in astrocytes to block the release of transmitters from these glial cells. By releasing adenosine triphosphate, which accumulates as adenosine, astrocytes tonically suppressed synaptic transmission, thereby enhancing the dynamic range for long-term potentiation and mediated activity-dependent, heterosynaptic depression. These results indicate that astrocytes are intricately linked in the regulation of synaptic strength and plasticity and provide a pathway for synaptic cross-talk.
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            Integrated brain circuits: astrocytic networks modulate neuronal activity and behavior.

            The past decade has seen an explosion of research on roles of neuron-astrocyte interactions in the control of brain function. We highlight recent studies performed on the tripartite synapse, the structure consisting of pre- and postsynaptic elements of the synapse and an associated astrocytic process. Astrocytes respond to neuronal activity and neurotransmitters, through the activation of metabotropic receptors, and can release the gliotransmitters ATP, d-serine, and glutamate, which act on neurons. Astrocyte-derived ATP modulates synaptic transmission, either directly or through its metabolic product adenosine. d-serine modulates NMDA receptor function, whereas glia-derived glutamate can play important roles in relapse following withdrawal from drugs of abuse. Cell type-specific molecular genetics has allowed a new level of examination of the function of astrocytes in brain function and has revealed an important role of these glial cells that is mediated by adenosine accumulation in the control of sleep and in cognitive impairments that follow sleep deprivation.
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              Glutamate exocytosis from astrocytes controls synaptic strength.

              The release of transmitters from glia influences synaptic functions. The modalities and physiological functions of glial release are poorly understood. Here we show that glutamate exocytosis from astrocytes of the rat hippocampal dentate molecular layer enhances synaptic strength at excitatory synapses between perforant path afferents and granule cells. The effect is mediated by ifenprodil-sensitive NMDA ionotropic glutamate receptors and involves an increase of transmitter release at the synapse. Correspondingly, we identify NMDA receptor 2B subunits on the extrasynaptic portion of excitatory nerve terminals. The receptor distribution is spatially related to glutamate-containing synaptic-like microvesicles in the apposed astrocytic processes. This glial regulatory pathway is endogenously activated by neuronal activity-dependent stimulation of purinergic P2Y1 receptors on the astrocytes. Thus, we provide the first combined functional and ultrastructural evidence for a physiological control of synaptic activity via exocytosis of glutamate from astrocytes.

                Author and article information

                Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
                Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci
                Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                19 October 2014
                19 October 2014
                : 369
                : 1654 , Theme Issue ‘Brain circuitry outside the synaptic cleft’ compiled and edited by Dmitri A. Rusakov and Alexander E. Dityatev
                Department of Fundamental Neurosciences, University of Lausanne , Rue du Bugnon 9, Lausanne 1005, Switzerland
                Author notes

                These authors contributed equally to this study.

                One contribution of 23 to a Theme Issue ‘ Brain circuitry outside the synaptic cleft’.


                © 2014 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Review Article
                Custom metadata
                October 19, 2014

                Philosophy of science
                gliotransmission,regulated exocytosis,channels,astrocytes,glutamate,electron microscopy


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