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Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jan;6(1):43-50.

Neuron-to-astrocyte signaling is central to the dynamic control of brain microcirculation.

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  • 1Istituto CNR di Neuroscienze and Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche Sperimentali, Universit√† di Padova, viale G. Colombo 3, 35121 Padova, Italy.


The cellular mechanisms underlying functional hyperemia--the coupling of neuronal activation to cerebral blood vessel responses--are not yet known. Here we show in rat cortical slices that the dilation of arterioles triggered by neuronal activity is dependent on glutamate-mediated [Ca(2+)](i) oscillations in astrocytes. Inhibition of these Ca(2+) responses resulted in the impairment of activity-dependent vasodilation, whereas selective activation--by patch pipette--of single astrocytes that were in contact with arterioles triggered vessel relaxation. We also found that a cyclooxygenase product is centrally involved in this astrocyte-mediated control of arterioles. In vivo blockade of glutamate-mediated [Ca(2+)](i) elevations in astrocytes reduced the blood flow increase in the somatosensory cortex during contralateral forepaw stimulation. Taken together, our findings show that neuron-to-astrocyte signaling is a key mechanism in functional hyperemia.

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