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J Neurosci. 2008 Jun 25;28(26):6659-63. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1717-08.2008.

Two forms of astrocyte calcium excitability have distinct effects on NMDA receptor-mediated slow inward currents in pyramidal neurons.

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  • 1Departments of Physiology and Neurobiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-1751, USA.


Astrocytes display excitability in the form of intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) increases, but the signaling impact of these for neurons remains debated and controversial. A key unresolved issue is whether astrocyte [Ca(2+)](i) elevations impact neurons or not. Here we report that in the CA1 region of the hippocampus, agonists of native P2Y(1) and PAR-1 receptors, which are preferentially expressed in astrocytes, equally elevated [Ca(2+)](i) levels without affecting the passive membrane properties of pyramidal neurons. However, under conditions chosen to isolate NMDA receptor responses, we found that activation of PAR-1 receptors led to the appearance of NMDA receptor-mediated slow inward currents (SICs) in pyramidal neurons. In stark contrast, activation of P2Y(1) receptors was ineffective in this regard. The PAR-1 receptor-mediated increased SICs were abolished by several strategies that selectively impaired astrocyte [Ca(2+)](i) excitability and function. Our studies therefore indicate that evoked astrocyte [Ca(2+)](i) transients are not a binary signal for interactions with neurons, and that astrocytes result in neuronal NMDA receptor-mediated SICs only when appropriately excited. The data thus provide a basis to rationalize recent contradictory data on astrocyte-neuron interactions.

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