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Cell Calcium. 2013 Dec;54(6):387-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ceca.2013.09.001. Epub 2013 Sep 24.

α1-Adrenergic receptors mediate coordinated Ca2+ signaling of cortical astrocytes in awake, behaving mice.

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Division of Glial Disease and Therapeutics, Center for Translational Neuromedicine, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York 14642.
Department of Ophthalmology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen 5021, Norway.
Contributed equally


Astrocyte Ca2+ signals in awake behaving mice are widespread, coordinated and differ fundamentally from the locally restricted Ca2+ transients observed ex vivo and in anesthetized animals. Here we show that the synchronized release of norepinephrine (NE) from locus coeruleus (LC) projections throughout the cerebral cortex mediate long-ranging Ca2+ signals by activation of astrocytic α1-adrenergic receptors. When LC output was triggered by either physiological sensory (whisker) stimulation or an air-puff startle response, astrocytes responded with fast Ca2+ transients that encompassed the entire imaged field (positioned over either frontal or parietal cortex). The application of adrenergic inhibitors, including α1-adrenergic antagonist prazosin, potently suppressed both evoked, as well as the frequently observed spontaneous astroglial Ca2+ signals. The LC-specific neurotoxin N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine (DSP-4), which reduced cortical NE content by >90%, prevented nearly all astrocytic Ca2+ signals in awake mice. The observations indicate that in adult, unanesthetized mice, astrocytes do not respond directly to glutamatergic signaling evoked by sensory stimulation. Instead astrocytes appear to be the primary target for NE, with astrocytic Ca2+ signaling being triggered by the α1-adrenergic receptor. In turn, astrocytes may coordinate the broad effects of neuromodulators on neuronal activity.


Astrocyte; Awake; Calcium; Norepinephrine; Startle

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