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Neuron. 2014 Feb 19;81(4):728-39. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.02.007.

Gliotransmitters travel in time and space.

Author information

Instituto Cajal, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 28002 Madrid, Spain; Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
Istituto di Neuroscienze, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and Dipartimento Scienze Biomediche, Università di Padova, 35121 Padova, Italy. Electronic address:
Department of Neuroscience, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02111, USA.
Inserm U862, Neurocentre Magendie, 33077 Bordeaux, France; Université de Bordeaux, 33077 Bordeaux, France.
Département de Neurosciences, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada; Groupe de Recherche sur le Système Nerveux Central, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.
Département de Neurosciences Fondamentales (DNF), Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine, Université de Lausanne, 1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The identification of the presence of active signaling between astrocytes and neurons in a process termed gliotransmission has caused a paradigm shift in our thinking about brain function. However, we are still in the early days of the conceptualization of how astrocytes influence synapses, neurons, networks, and ultimately behavior. In this Perspective, our goal is to identify emerging principles governing gliotransmission and consider the specific properties of this process that endow the astrocyte with unique functions in brain signal integration. We develop and present hypotheses aimed at reconciling confounding reports and define open questions to provide a conceptual framework for future studies. We propose that astrocytes mainly signal through high-affinity slowly desensitizing receptors to modulate neurons and perform integration in spatiotemporal domains complementary to those of neurons.

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