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Adv Physiol Educ. 2002 Dec;26(1-4):225-37.

Glial-neuronal interactions in the mammalian brain.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, University of California, Riverside, California 92521, USA.


Recognition of the importance of glial cells in nervous system functioning is increasing, specifically regarding the modulation of neural activity. This brief review focuses on some of the morphological and functional interactions that take place between astroglia and neurons. Astrocyte-neuron interactions are of special interest because this glia cell type has intimate and dynamic associations with all parts of neurons, i.e., somata, dendrites, axons, and terminals. Activation of certain receptors on astrocytes produces morphological changes that result in new contacts between neurons, along with physiological and functional changes brought about by the new contacts. In response to activation of other receptors or changes in the extracellular microenvironment, astrocytes release neuroactive substances that directly excite or inhibit nearby neurons and may modulate synaptic transmission. Although some of these glial-neuronal interactions have been known for many years, others have been quite recently revealed, but together they are forming a compelling story of how these two major cell types in the brain carry out the complex tasks that mammalian nervous systems perform.

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