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Nat Neurosci. 2006 Jun;9(6):816-23. Epub 2006 May 14.

Astrocytic Ca2+ signaling evoked by sensory stimulation in vivo.

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Center for Aging and Developmental Biology, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Although astrocytes are the most abundant cell type in the brain, evidence for their activation during physiological sensory activity is lacking. Here we show that whisker stimulation evokes increases in astrocytic cytosolic calcium (Ca(2+)) within the barrel cortex of adult mice. Increases in astrocytic Ca(2+) were a function of the frequency of stimulation, occurred within several seconds and were inhibited by metabotropic glutamate receptor antagonists. To distinguish between synaptic input and output, local synaptic activity in cortical layer 2 was silenced by iontophoresis of AMPA and NMDA receptor antagonists. The antagonists did not reduce astrocytic Ca(2+) responses despite a marked reduction in excitatory postsynaptic currents in response to whisker stimulation. These findings indicate that astrocytes respond to synaptic input, by means of spillover or ectopic release of glutamate, and that increases in astrocytic Ca(2+) occur independently of postsynaptic excitatory activity.

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