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Glia. 2018 Feb;66(2):311-326. doi: 10.1002/glia.23244. Epub 2017 Oct 23.

Functional rhythmogenic domains defined by astrocytic networks in the trigeminal main sensory nucleus.

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Groupe de Recherche sur le Système Nerveux Central, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada.
Département de Neurosciences, Université de Montréal, Pavillon Paul-G.Desmarais, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada.
Douglas Mental Health University Institute, 6875 boulevard LaSalle, Montreal, Québec, H4H 1R3, Canada.
Faculté de Médecine Dentaire, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Canada.


Stimuli that induce rhythmic firing in trigeminal neurons also increase astrocytic coupling and reveal networks that define the boundaries of this particular population. Rhythmic firing depends on astrocytic coupling which in turn depends on S100β. In many nervous functions that rely on the ability of neuronal networks to generate a rhythmic pattern of activity, coordination of firing is an essential feature. Astrocytes play an important role in some of these networks, but the contribution of astrocytic coupling remains poorly defined. Here we investigate the modulation and organization of astrocytic networks in the dorsal part of the trigeminal main sensory nucleus (NVsnpr), which forms part of the network generating chewing movements. Using whole-cell recordings and the dye coupling approach by filling a single astrocyte with biocytin to reveal astrocytic networks, we showed that coupling is limited under resting conditions, but increases importantly under conditions that induce rhythmic firing in NVsnpr neurons. These are: repetitive electrical stimulation of the sensory inputs to the nucleus, local application of NMDA and decrease of extracellular Ca2+ . We have previously shown that rhythmic firing induced in NVsnpr neurons by these stimuli depends on astrocytes and their Ca2+ -binding protein S100β. Here we show that extracellular blockade of S100β also prevents the increase in astrocytic coupling induced by local application of NMDA. Most of the networks were small and remained confined to the functionally distinct area of dorsal NVsnpr. Disrupting coupling by perfusion with the nonspecific gap junction blocker, carbenoxolone or with GAP26, a selective inhibitor of connexin 43, mostly expressed in astrocytes, abolished NMDA-induced rhythmic firing in NVsnpr neurons. These results suggest that astrocytic coupling is regulated by sensory inputs, necessary for neuronal bursting, and organized in a region specific manner.


S100β; central pattern generator; gap junction; mastication; rhythmic movements

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