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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2015 Feb 6;7(9):a020370. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a020370.

Astrocytes Control Synapse Formation, Function, and Elimination.

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Stanford University, School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology, Stanford, California 94305.
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, La Jolla, California 92037.
Duke University Medical Center, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Departments, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Astrocytes, through their close associations with synapses, can monitor and alter synaptic function, thus actively controlling synaptic transmission in the adult brain. Besides their important role at adult synapses, in the last three decades a number of critical findings have highlighted the importance of astrocytes in the establishment of synaptic connectivity in the developing brain. In this article, we will review the key findings on astrocytic control of synapse formation, function, and elimination. First, we will summarize our current structural and functional understanding of astrocytes at the synapse. Then, we will discuss the cellular and molecular mechanisms through which developing and mature astrocytes instruct the formation, maturation, and refinement of synapses. Our aim is to provide an overview of astrocytes as important players in the establishment of a functional nervous system.

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