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Nat Neurosci. 2011 Dec 11;15(1):70-80. doi: 10.1038/nn.3000.

TRPA1 channels regulate astrocyte resting calcium and inhibitory synapse efficacy through GAT-3.

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Department of Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Astrocytes contribute to the formation and function of synapses and are found throughout the brain, where they show intracellular store-mediated Ca(2+) signals. Here, using a membrane-tethered, genetically encoded calcium indicator (Lck-GCaMP3), we report the serendipitous discovery of a new type of Ca(2+) signal in rat hippocampal astrocyte-neuron cocultures. We found that Ca(2+) fluxes mediated by transient receptor potential A1 (TRPA1) channels gave rise to frequent and highly localized 'spotty' Ca(2+) microdomains near the membrane that contributed appreciably to resting Ca(2+) in astrocytes. Mechanistic evaluations in brain slices showed that decreases in astrocyte resting Ca(2+) concentrations mediated by TRPA1 channels decreased interneuron inhibitory synapse efficacy by reducing GABA transport by GAT-3, thus elevating extracellular GABA. Our data show how a transmembrane Ca(2+) source (TRPA1) targets a transporter (GAT-3) in astrocytes to regulate inhibitory synapses.

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