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Neuroscience. 2016 May 26;323:96-109. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2015.03.064. Epub 2015 Apr 3.

Beyond neurovascular coupling, role of astrocytes in the regulation of vascular tone.

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Georgia Regents University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, United States. Electronic address:
University of Arizona, 1305 N. Martin Avenue, P.O. Box 210203, Tucson, AZ 85721, United States.
Georgia Regents University, 1120 15th Street, Augusta, GA 30912, United States.


The brain possesses two intricate mechanisms that fulfill its continuous metabolic needs: cerebral autoregulation, which ensures constant cerebral blood flow over a wide range of arterial pressures and functional hyperemia, which ensures rapid delivery of oxygen and glucose to active neurons. Over the past decade, a number of important studies have identified astrocytes as key intermediaries in neurovascular coupling (NVC), the mechanism by which active neurons signal blood vessels to change their diameter. Activity-dependent increases in astrocytic Ca(2+) activity are thought to contribute to the release of vasoactive substances that facilitate arteriole vasodilation. A number of vasoactive signals have been identified and their role on vessel caliber assessed both in vitro and in vivo. In this review, we discuss mechanisms implicating astrocytes in NVC-mediated vascular responses, limitations encountered as a result of the challenges in maintaining all the constituents of the neurovascular unit intact and deliberate current controversial findings disputing a main role for astrocytes in NVC. Finally, we briefly discuss the potential role of pericytes and microglia in NVC-mediated processes.


astrocyte; calcium; cerebral blood flow; myogenic tone; neurovascular coupling

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