Author(s): Halassa MM, Fellin T, Takano H, Dong JH, Haydon PG
Abstract Share this page
Abstract In the mammalian brain, astrocytes modulate neuronal function, in part, by synchronizing neuronal firing and coordinating synaptic networks. Little, however, is known about how this is accomplished from a structural standpoint. To investigate the structural basis of astrocyte-mediated neuronal synchrony and synaptic coordination, the three-dimensional relationships between cortical astrocytes and neurons was investigated. Using a transgenic and viral approach to label astrocytes with enhanced green fluorescent protein, we performed a three-dimensional reconstruction of astrocytes from tissue sections or live animals in vivo. We found that cortical astrocytes occupy nonoverlapping territories similar to those described in the hippocampus. Using immunofluorescence labeling of neuronal somata, a single astrocyte enwraps on average four neuronal somata with an upper limit of eight. Single-neuron dye-fills allowed us to estimate that one astrocyte contacts 300-600 neuronal dendrites. Together with the recent findings showing that glial Ca2+ signaling is restricted to individual astrocytes in vivo, and that Ca2+ signaling leads to gliotransmission, we propose the concept of functional islands of synapses in which groups of synapses confined within the boundaries of an individual astrocyte are modulated by the gliotransmitter environment controlled by that astrocyte. Our description offers a new structurally based conceptual framework to evaluate functional data involving interactions between neurons and astrocytes in the mammalian brain.
This article was published in J Neurosci
and referenced in Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence