Figure 1: Astrocytes are star-shaped cells with numerous fine projections that ensheath synapses in the brain. Copyright : © 2012 Hajime Hirase
Furthermore, the researchers found that stimulation of the NBM led to an increase in the extracellular concentration of the amino acid D-serine in the normal, but not the mutant, mice. D-serine is secreted by astrocytes and activates NMDARs. Hirase’s team had previously shown that astrocytes are electrically silent in living rodents even in the presence of neural activity. The new findings showed that the biochemical, as opposed to electrical, activation of astrocytes induces them to release the transmitter that modulates synaptic plasticity in the neuronal circuitry.
“Our study is probably the first to show that calcium signaling in astrocytes is related to neuronal circuit plasticity in living animals,” says Hirase. “We are now studying if this type of calcium signaling occurs in all parts of an astrocyte or is restricted to some parts of the cell.”
2.Mishima, T. & Hirase, H. In vivo intracellular recording suggests that gray matter astrocytes in mature cerebral cortex and hippocampus are electrophysiologically homogeneous. The Journal of Neuroscience 30, 3093–3100 (2010).
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