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1.  Volume transmission signalling via astrocytes 
The influence of astrocytes on synaptic function has been increasingly studied, owing to the discovery of both gliotransmission and morphological ensheathment of synapses. While astrocytes exhibit at best modest membrane potential fluctuations, activation of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) leads to a prominent elevation of intracellular calcium which has been reported to correlate with gliotransmission. In this review, the possible role of astrocytic GPCR activation is discussed as a trigger to promote synaptic plasticity, by affecting synaptic receptors through gliotransmitters. Moreover, we suggest that volume transmission of neuromodulators could be a biological mechanism to activate astrocytic GPCRs and thereby to switch synaptic networks to the plastic mode during states of attention in cerebral cortical structures.
PMCID: PMC4173289  PMID: 25225097
acetylcholine; Gq signalling; IP3 receptors; d-serine; gamma oscillations
3.  Cerebral Blood Flow Modulation by Basal Forebrain or Whisker Stimulation Can Occur Independently of Large Cytosolic Ca2+ Signaling in Astrocytes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66525.
We report that a brief electrical stimulation of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM), the primary source of cholinergic projection to the cerebral cortex, induces a biphasic cerebral cortical blood flow (CBF) response in the somatosensory cortex of C57BL/6J mice. This CBF response, measured by laser Doppler flowmetry, was attenuated by the muscarinic type acetylcholine receptor antagonist atropine, suggesting a possible involvement of astrocytes in this type of CBF modulation. However, we find that IP3R2 knockout mice, which lack cytosolic Ca2+ surges in astrocytes, show similar CBF changes. Moreover, whisker stimulation resulted in similar degrees of CBF increase in IP3R2 knockout mice and the background strain C57BL/6J. Our results show that neural activity-driven CBF modulation could occur without large cytosolic increases of Ca2+ in astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3681769  PMID: 23785506
4.  Disrupted cortical function underlies behavior dysfunction due to social isolation 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(7):2690-2701.
Stressful events during early childhood can have a profound lifelong influence on emotional and cognitive behaviors. However, the mechanisms by which stress affects neonatal brain circuit formation are poorly understood. Here, we show that neonatal social isolation disrupts molecular, cellular, and circuit developmental processes, leading to behavioral dysfunction. Neonatal isolation prevented long-term potentiation and experience-dependent synaptic trafficking of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) receptors normally occurring during circuit formation in the rodent barrel cortex. This inhibition of AMPA receptor trafficking was mediated by an increase of the stress glucocorticoid hormone and was associated with reduced calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type II (CaMKII) signaling, resulting in attenuated whisker sensitivity at the cortex. These effects led to defects in whisker-dependent behavior in juvenile animals. These results indicate that neonatal social isolation alters neuronal plasticity mechanisms and perturbs the initial establishment of a normal cortical circuit, which potentially explains the long-lasting behavioral effects of neonatal stress.
PMCID: PMC3387818  PMID: 22706303
5.  Remodeling of Monoplanar Purkinje Cell Dendrites during Cerebellar Circuit Formation 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e20108.
Dendrite arborization patterns are critical determinants of neuronal connectivity and integration. Planar and highly branched dendrites of the cerebellar Purkinje cell receive specific topographical projections from two major afferent pathways; a single climbing fiber axon from the inferior olive that extend along Purkinje dendrites, and parallel fiber axons of granule cells that contact vertically to the plane of dendrites. It has been believed that murine Purkinje cell dendrites extend in a single parasagittal plane in the molecular layer after the cell polarity is determined during the early postnatal development. By three-dimensional confocal analysis of growing Purkinje cells, we observed that mouse Purkinje cells underwent dynamic dendritic remodeling during circuit maturation in the third postnatal week. After dendrites were polarized and flattened in the early second postnatal week, dendritic arbors gradually expanded in multiple sagittal planes in the molecular layer by intensive growth and branching by the third postnatal week. Dendrites then became confined to a single plane in the fourth postnatal week. Multiplanar Purkinje cells in the third week were often associated by ectopic climbing fibers innervating nearby Purkinje cells in distinct sagittal planes. The mature monoplanar arborization was disrupted in mutant mice with abnormal Purkinje cell connectivity and motor discoordination. The dendrite remodeling was also impaired by pharmacological disruption of normal afferent activity during the second or third postnatal week. Our results suggest that the monoplanar arborization of Purkinje cells is coupled with functional development of the cerebellar circuitry.
PMCID: PMC3105010  PMID: 21655286
6.  Deletion of RAGE Causes Hyperactivity and Increased Sensitivity to Auditory Stimuli in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8309.
The receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) is a multi-ligand receptor that belongs to the immunoglobulin superfamily of cell surface receptors. In diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, pathological progression is accelerated by activation of RAGE. However, how RAGE influences gross behavioral activity patterns in basal condition has not been addressed to date. In search for a functional role of RAGE in normal mice, a series of standard behavioral tests were performed on adult RAGE knockout (KO) mice. We observed a solid increase of home cage activity in RAGE KO. In addition, auditory startle response assessment resulted in a higher sensitivity to auditory signal and increased prepulse inhibition in KO mice. There were no significant differences between KO and wild types in behavioral tests for spatial memory and anxiety, as tested by Morris water maze, classical fear conditioning, and elevated plus maze. Our results raise a possibility that systemic therapeutic treatments to occlude RAGE activation may have adverse effects on general activity levels or sensitivity to auditory stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2788702  PMID: 20016851
7.  Size and Receptor Density of Glutamatergic Synapses: A Viewpoint from Left–Right Asymmetry of CA3–CA1 Connections 
Synaptic plasticity is considered to be the main mechanism for learning and memory. Excitatory synapses in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus undergo plastic changes during development and in response to electric stimulation. It is widely accepted that this process is mediated by insertion and elimination of various glutamate receptors. In a series of recent investigations on left–right asymmetry of hippocampal CA3–CA1 synapses, glutamate receptor subunits have been found to have distinctive expression patterns that depend on the postsynaptic density (PSD) area. Particularly notable are the GluR1 AMPA receptor subunit and NR2B NMDA receptor subunit, where receptor density has either a supralinear (GluR1 AMPA) or inverse (NR2B NMDAR) relationship to the PSD area. We review current understanding of structural and physiological synaptic plasticity and propose a scheme to classify receptor subtypes by their expression pattern with respect to PSD area.
PMCID: PMC2706655  PMID: 19587849
spines; glutamate; AMPAR; NMDAR; mGluR5; PSD
8.  Cortical Layer 1 and Layer 2/3 Astrocytes Exhibit Distinct Calcium Dynamics In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(6):e2525.
Cumulative evidence supports bidirectional interactions between astrocytes and neurons, suggesting glial involvement of neuronal information processing in the brain. Cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) concentration is important for astrocytes as Ca2+ surges co-occur with gliotransmission and neurotransmitter reception. Cerebral cortex is organized in layers which are characterized by distinct cytoarchitecture. We asked if astrocyte-dominant layer 1 (L1) of the somatosensory cortex was different from layer 2/3 (L2/3) in spontaneous astrocytic Ca2+ activity and if it was influenced by background neural activity. Using a two-photon laser scanning microscope, we compared spontaneous Ca2+ activity of astrocytic somata and processes in L1 and L2/3 of anesthetized mature rat somatosensory cortex. We also assessed the contribution of background neural activity to the spontaneous astrocytic Ca2+ dynamics by investigating two distinct EEG states (“synchronized” vs. “de-synchronized” states). We found that astrocytes in L1 had nearly twice higher Ca2+ activity than L2/3. Furthermore, Ca2+ fluctuations of processes within an astrocyte were independent in L1 while those in L2/3 were synchronous. Pharmacological blockades of metabotropic receptors for glutamate, ATP, and acetylcholine, as well as suppression of action potentials did not have a significant effect on the spontaneous somatic Ca2+ activity. These results suggest that spontaneous astrocytic Ca2+ surges occurred in large part intrinsically, rather than neural activity-driven. Our findings propose a new functional segregation of layer 1 and 2/3 that is defined by autonomous astrocytic activity.
PMCID: PMC2424136  PMID: 18575586
9.  Experience enhances gamma oscillations and interhemispheric asymmetry in the hippocampus 
Nature Communications  2013;4:1652-.
Gamma oscillations are implicated in higher-order brain functions such as cognition and memory, but how an animal’s experience organizes these gamma activities remains elusive. Here we show that the power of hippocampal theta-associated gamma oscillations recorded during urethane anesthesia tends to be greater in rats reared in an enriched environment than those reared in an isolated condition. This experience-dependent gamma enhancement is consistently larger in the right hippocampus across subjects, coinciding with a lateralized increase of synaptic density in the right hippocampus. Moreover, interhemispheric coherence in the enriched environment group is significantly elevated at the gamma frequency. These results suggest that enriched rearing sculpts the functional left–right asymmetry of hippocampal circuits by reorganization of synapses.
Gamma oscillations act to synchronize neuronal activity and are implicated in cognitive processing. Using in vivo electrophysiology, Shinohara et al. find that gamma oscillations and associated structural changes are greater in right-sided hippocampi of enriched environment-reared rats.
PMCID: PMC3644069  PMID: 23552067
10.  Calcium Dynamics of Cortical Astrocytic Networks In Vivo 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(4):e96.
Large and long-lasting cytosolic calcium surges in astrocytes have been described in cultured cells and acute slice preparations. The mechanisms that give rise to these calcium events have been extensively studied in vitro. However, their existence and functions in the intact brain are unknown. We have topically applied Fluo-4 AM on the cerebral cortex of anesthetized rats, and imaged cytosolic calcium fluctuation in astrocyte populations of superficial cortical layers in vivo, using two-photon laser scanning microscopy. Spontaneous [Ca2+]i events in individual astrocytes were similar to those observed in vitro. Coordination of [Ca2+]i events among astrocytes was indicated by the broad cross-correlograms. Increased neuronal discharge was associated with increased astrocytic [Ca2+]i activity in individual cells and a robust coordination of [Ca2+]i signals in neighboring astrocytes. These findings indicate potential neuron–glia communication in the intact brain.
Two-photon laser scanning microscopy was used to image calcium concentration changes in astrocytes in the cerebral cortex of anesthetized rats
PMCID: PMC387267  PMID: 15094801

Results 1-10 (10)