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Exp Neurol. 1994 Jul;128(1):41-9.

Mammalian cortical astrocytes align themselves in a physiological voltage gradient.

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  • 1Center for Paralysis Research, School of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-1244.


Astrocytes obtained from primary cultures of newborn rat cerebral cortex show a marked structural rearrangement to weak (50-500 mV/mm) applied voltage gradients. Astrocytes reorient their processes so that the cells are aligned perpendicular to the voltage gradient. At field strengths of 100 mV/mm or greater, this realignment occurs in over 90% of the cell population. Furthermore, these magnitudes of electric fields completely eliminate any parallel alignments originally observed prior to application of the voltage. Realignment usually occurs by a withdrawal, followed by an extension, of cell processes. These responses occur at voltage gradients within the physiological range that naturally exist across the neural tube during early development. We suggest the possibility that architectural arrangements of developing glia and, subsequently, neurons may be regulated by endogenous transepithelial potentials that exist across embryonic neuroepithelium.

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