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Glia. 2016 Feb;64(2):214-26. doi: 10.1002/glia.22924. Epub 2015 Oct 5.

Gap junction coupling confers isopotentiality on astrocyte syncytium.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, 43210.
2
Mathematical Biosciences Institute, the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 43210.
3
Department of Mathematics, the Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 43210.

Abstract

Astrocytes are extensively coupled through gap junctions into a syncytium. However, the basic role of this major brain network remains largely unknown. Using electrophysiological and computational modeling methods, we demonstrate that the membrane potential (VM) of an individual astrocyte in a hippocampal syncytium, but not in a single, freshly isolated cell preparation, can be well-maintained at quasi-physiological levels when recorded with reduced or K(+) free pipette solutions that alter the K(+) equilibrium potential to non-physiological voltages. We show that an astrocyte's associated syncytium provides powerful electrical coupling, together with ionic coupling at a lesser extent, that equalizes the astrocyte's VM to levels comparable to its neighbors. Functionally, this minimizes VM depolarization attributable to elevated levels of local extracellular K(+) and thereby maintains a sustained driving force for highly efficient K(+) uptake. Thus, gap junction coupling functions to achieve isopotentiality in astrocytic networks, whereby a constant extracellular environment can be powerfully maintained for crucial functions of neural circuits.

KEYWORDS:

K+ clearance; coupling coefficient; electrical coupling; membrane potential

PMID:
26435164
PMCID:
PMC4595908
DOI:
10.1002/glia.22924
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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