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J Gen Physiol. 2010 Jun;135(6):583-94. doi: 10.1085/jgp.200910354. Epub 2010 May 17.

Neuron-astrocyte interactions in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body.

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Cellular Neuroscience, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, 13092 Berlin, Germany.


The calyx of Held (CoH) synapse serves as a model system to analyze basic mechanisms of synaptic transmission. Astrocyte processes are part of the synaptic structure and contact both pre- and postsynaptic membranes. In the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), midline stimulation evoked a current response that was not mediated by glutamate receptors or glutamate uptake, despite the fact that astrocytes express functional receptors and transporters. However, astrocytes showed spontaneous Ca(2+) responses and neuronal slow inward currents (nSICs) were recorded in the postsynaptic principal neurons (PPNs) of the MNTB. These currents were correlated with astrocytic Ca(2+) activity because dialysis of astrocytes with BAPTA abolished nSICs. Moreover, the frequency of these currents was increased when Ca(2+) responses in astrocytes were elicited. NMDA antagonists selectively blocked nSICs while D-serine degradation significantly reduced NMDA-mediated currents. In contrast to previous studies in the hippocampus, these NMDA-mediated currents were rarely synchronized.

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