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Neuron. 1992 Mar;8(3):429-40.

Neuronal activity triggers calcium waves in hippocampal astrocyte networks.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Beckman Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305-5426.


The recent discovery that the neurotransmitter glutamate can trigger actively propagating Ca2+ waves in the cytoplasm of cultured astrocytes suggests the possibility that synaptically released glutamate may trigger similar Ca2+ waves in brain astrocytes in situ. To explore this possibility, we used confocal microscopy and the Ca2+ indicator fluo-3 to study organotypically cultured slices of rat hippocampus, where astrocytic and neuronal networks are intermingled in their normal tissue relationships. We find that astrocytic Ca2+ waves are present under these circumstances and that these waves can be triggered by the firing of glutamatergic neuronal afferents with latencies as short as 2 s. The Ca2+ waves closely resemble those previously observed in cultured astrocytes: they propagate both within and between astrocytes at velocities of 7-27 microns/s at 21 degrees C. The ability of tissue astrocyte networks to respond to neuronal network activity suggests that astrocytes may have a much more dynamic and active role in brain function than has been generally recognized.

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