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Cereb Cortex. Dec 2008; 18(12): 2789–2795.
Published online Mar 27, 2008. doi:  10.1093/cercor/bhn040
PMCID: PMC2583159

Locus Coeruleus α-Adrenergic–Mediated Activation of Cortical Astrocytes In Vivo

Abstract

The locus coeruleus (LC) provides the sole source of norepinephrine (NE) to the cortex for modulation of cortical synaptic activity in response to salient sensory information. NE has been shown to improve signal-to-noise ratios, sharpen receptive fields and function in learning, memory, and cognitive performance. Although LC-mediated effects on neurons have been addressed, involvement of astrocytes has thus far not been demonstrated in these neuromodulatory functions. Here we show for the 1st time in live mice, that astrocytes exhibit rapid Ca2+ increases in response to electrical stimulation of the LC. Additionally, robust peripheral stimulation known to result in phasic LC activity leads to Ca2+ responses in astrocytes throughout sensory cortex that are independent of sensory-driven glutamate-dependent pathways. Furthermore, the astrocytic Ca2+ transients are competitively modulated by α2-specific agonist/antagonist combinations known to impact LC output, are sensitive to the LC-specific neurotoxin N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine, and are inhibited locally by an α-adrenergic antagonist. Future investigations of LC function must therefore consider the possibility that LC neuromodulatory effects are in part derived from activation of astrocytes.

Keywords: calcium transients, footshock, somatosensory, LC, metabotropic glutamate receptor, neuromodulator

Articles from Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY) are provided here courtesy of Oxford University Press
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