There is a growing body of evidence suggesting a functional relationship between Ca2+ signals generated in astroglia and the functioning of nearby excitatory synapses. Interference with endogenous Ca2+ homeostasis inside individual astrocytes has been shown to affect synaptic transmission and its use-dependent changes. However, establishing the causal link between source-specific, physiologically relevant intracellular Ca2+ signals, the astrocytic release machinery and the consequent effects on synaptic transmission has proved difficult. Improved methods of Ca2+ monitoring in situ will be essential for resolving the ambiguity in understanding the underlying Ca2+ signalling cascades.
Astrocyte; plasticity; glia; synapse
Astrocytes are involved in synaptic and cerebrovascular regulation in the brain. These functions are regulated by intracellular calcium signalling that is thought to reflect a form of astrocyte excitability. In a recent study, we reported modification of the genetically encoded calcium indicator (GECI) GCaMP2 with a membrane-tethering domain, Lck, to generate Lck-GCaMP2. This GECI allowed us to detect novel microdomain calcium signals. The microdomains were random and ‘spotty’ in nature. In order to detect such signals more reliably, in the present study we further modified Lck-GCaMP2 to carry three mutations in the GCaMP2 moiety (M153K, T203V within EGFP and N60D in the CaM domain) to generate Lck-GCaMP3. We directly compared Lck-GCaMP2 and Lck-GCaMP3 by assessing their ability to monitor several types of astrocyte calcium signals with a focus on spotty microdomains. Our data show that Lck-GCaMP3 is between two- and four-times better than Lck-GCaMP2 in terms of its basal fluorescence intensity, signal-to-noise and its ability to detect microdomains. The use of Lck-GCaMP3 thus represents a significantly improved way to monitor astrocyte calcium signals, including microdomains, and will facilitate detailed exploration of their molecular mechanisms and physiological roles.
Glia; neuron; interactions; signalling
Cell bodies of trigeminal nerves, which are located in the trigeminal ganglion, are completely surrounded by satellite glial cells and together form a functional unit that regulates neuronal excitability. The goals of this study were to investigate the cellular organization of the rat trigeminal ganglia during postnatal development and correlate those findings with expression of proteins implicated in neuron–glia interactions. During postnatal development there was an increase in the volume of the neuronal cell body, which correlated with a steady increase in the number of glial cells associated with an individual neuron from an average of 2.16 at birth to 7.35 on day 56 in young adults. Interestingly, while the levels of the inwardly rectifying K+ channel Kir4.1 were barely detectable during the first week, its expression in satellite glial cells increased by day 9 and correlated with initial formation of functional units. Similarly, expression of the vesicle docking protein SNAP-25 and neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide was readily detected beginning on day 9 and remained elevated throughout postnatal development. Based on our findings, we propose that the expression of proteins involved in facilitating neuron–glia interactions temporally correlates with the formation of mature functional units during postnatal development of trigeminal ganglion.
Kir4.1; CGRP; SNAP-25
In the cerebellum, lamellar Bergmann glial (BG) appendages wrap tightly around almost every Purkinje cell dendritic spine. The function of this glial ensheathment of spines is not entirely understood. The development of ensheathment begins near the onset of synaptogenesis, when motility of both BG processes and dendritic spines are high. By the end of the synaptogenic period, ensheathment is complete and motility of the BG processes decreases, correlating with the decreased motility of dendritic spines. We therefore have hypothesized that ensheathment is intimately involved in capping synaptogenesis, possibly by stabilizing synapses. To test this hypothesis, we misexpressed GluR2 in an adenoviral vector in BG towards the end of the synaptogenic period, rendering the BG α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs) Ca2+-impermeable and causing glial sheath retraction. We then measured the resulting spine motility, spine density and synapse number. Although we found that decreasing ensheathment at this time does not alter spine motility, we did find a significant increase in both synaptic pucta and dendritic spine density. These results indicate that consistent spine coverage by BG in the cerebellum is not necessary for stabilization of spine dynamics, but is very important in the regulation of synapse number.
Synaptogenesis; Purkinje cell; cerebellum; GluR2
Satellite glial cells (SGCs) undergo phenotypic changes and divide the following injury into a peripheral nerve. Nerve injury, also elicits an immune response and several antigen-presenting cells are found in close proximity to SGCs. Silencing SCG-specific molecules involved in intercellular transport (Connexin 43) or glutamate recycling (glutamine synthase) can dramatically alter nociceptive responses of normal and nerve-injured rats. Transducing SGCs with glutamic acid decarboxylase can produce analgesia in models of trigeminal pain. Taken together these data suggest that SGCs may play a role in the genesis or maintenance of pain and open a range of new possibilities for curing neuropathic pain.
Nociception; trigeminal; immune cells; GABA; RNAi
Trigeminal nerve activation in response to inflammatory stimuli has been shown to increase neuron–glia communication via gap junctions in trigeminal ganglion. The goal of this study was to identify changes in the expression of gap junction proteins, connexins (Cxs), in trigeminal ganglia in response to acute or chronic joint inflammation. Although mRNA for Cxs 26, 36, 40 and 43 was detected under basal conditions, protein expression of only Cxs 26, 36 and 40 increased following capsaicin or complete Freund’s adjuvant (CFA) injection into the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). While Cx26 plaque formation between neurons and satellite glia was transiently increased following capsaicin injections, Cx26 plaque formation between neurons and satellite glia was sustained in response to CFA. Interestingly, levels of Cx36 and Cx40 were only elevated in neurons following capsaicin or CFA injections, but the temporal response was similar to that observed for Cx26. In contrast, Cx43 expression was not increased in neurons or satellite glial cells in response to CFA or capsaicin. Thus, trigeminal ganglion neurons and satellite glia can differentially regulate Cx expression in response to the type and duration of inflammatory stimuli, which likely facilitates increased neuron–glia communication during acute and chronic inflammation and pain in the TMJ.
Capsaicin; complete Freund’s adjuvant; gap junctions; hemichannels; temporomandibular joint disorders
It has been known for some time that the somata of neurons in sensory ganglia respond to electrical or chemical stimulation and release transmitters in a Ca2+-dependent manner. The function of the somatic release has not been well delineated. A unique characteristic of the ganglia is that each neuronal soma is tightly enwrapped by satellite glial cells (SGCs). The somatic membrane of a sensory neuron rarely makes synaptic contact with another neuron. As a result, the influence of somatic release on the activity of adjacent neurons is likely to be indirect and/or slow. Recent studies of neuron-SGC interactions have demonstrated that ATP released from the somata of dorsal root ganglion neurons activates SGCs. They in turn exert complex excitatory and inhibitory modulation of neuronal activity. Thus, SGCs are actively involved in the processing of afferent information. In this review, we summarize our understanding of bidirectional communication between neuronal somata and SGCs in sensory ganglia and its possible role in afferent signaling under normal and injurious conditions. The participation of purinergic receptors is emphasized because of their dominant roles in the communication.
somatic ATP release; P2X7 receptor; cytokine release; dorsal root ganglia; pathological nociception
The astrocytic enzyme adenosine kinase (ADK) is a key negative regulator of the brain’s endogenous anticonvulsant adenosine. Astrogliosis with concomitant upregulation of ADK is part of the epileptogenic cascade and contributes to seizure generation. To molecularly dissect the respective roles of astrogliosis and ADK-expression for seizure generation, we used a transgenic approach to uncouple ADK-expression from astrogliosis: in Adk-tg mice the endogenous Adk-gene was deleted and replaced by a ubiquitously expressed Adk-transgene with novel ectopic expression in pyramidal neurons, resulting in spontaneous seizures. Here, we followed a unique approach to selectively injure the CA3 of these Adk-tg mice. Using this strategy, we had the opportunity to study astrogliosis and epileptogenesis in the absence of the endogenous astrocytic Adk-gene. After triggering epileptogenesis we demonstrate astrogliosis without upregulation of ADK, but lack of seizures, whereas matching wild-type animals developed astrogliosis with upregulation of ADK and spontaneous recurrent seizures. By uncoupling ADK-expression from astrogliosis, we demonstrate that global expression levels of ADK rather than astrogliosis per se contribute to seizure generation.
astrogliosis; seizures; kainic acid; epileptogenesis; CA3
Glia are an indispensable structural and functional component of the synapse. They modulate synaptic transmission and also play important roles in synapse formation and maintenance. The vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a classic model synapse. Due to its large size, simplicity and accessibility, the NMJ has contributed greatly to our understanding of synapse development and organization. In the past decade, the NMJ has also emerged as an effective model for studying glia–synapse interactions, in part due to the development of various labeling techniques that permit NMJs and associated Schwann cells (the glia at NMJs) to be visualized in vitro and in vivo. These approaches have demonstrated that Schwann cells are actively involved in synapse remodeling both during early development and in post-injury reinnervation. In vivo imaging has also recently been combined with serial section transmission electron microscopic (ssTEM) reconstruction to directly examine the ultrastructural organization of remodeling NMJs. In this review, we focus on the anatomical studies of Schwann cell dynamics and their roles in formation, maturation and remodeling of vertebrate NMJs using the highest temporal and spatial resolution methods currently available.
Schwann cell; synapse elimination; reinnervation; in vivo imaging; ssTEM reconstruction
The insulative properties of myelin sheaths in the central and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS) are widely thought to derive from the high resistance and low capacitance of the constituent membranes. Although this view adequately accounts for myelin function in large diameter PNS fibers, it poorly reflects the behavior of small fibers that are prominent in many regions of the CNS. Herein, we develop a computational model to more accurately represent conduction in small fibers. By incorporating structural features that, hitherto, have not been simulated, we demonstrate that myelin tight junctions improve saltatory conduction by reducing current flow through the myelin, limiting axonal membrane depolarization and restraining the activation of ion channels beneath the myelin sheath. Accordingly, our simulations provide a novel view of myelin by which tight junctions minimize charging of the membrane capacitance and lower the membrane time constant to improve the speed and accuracy of transmission in small diameter fibers. This study establishes possible mechanisms whereby TJs affect conduction in the absence of overt perturbations to myelin architecture and may in part explain the tremor and gait abnormalities observed in Claudin 11-null mice.
axoglial junctions; claudin; intercellular junctions; knockout; modeling; occluding; paranodal; permeability barrier; radial component; schizophrenia; multiple sclerosis; simulation; myelination; action potential
Astrocytes communicate with neurons, endothelial and other glial cells through transmission of intercellular calcium signals. Satellite glial cells (SGCs) in sensory ganglia share several properties with astrocytes, but whether this type of communication occurs between SGCs and sensory neurons has not been explored. In the present work we used cultured neurons and SGCs from mouse trigeminal ganglia to address this question. Focal electrical or mechanical stimulation of single neurons in trigeminal ganglion cultures increased intracellular calcium concentration in these cells and triggered calcium elevations in adjacent glial cells. Similar to neurons, SGCs responded to mechanical stimulation with increase in cytosolic calcium that spread to the adjacent neuron and neighboring glial cells. Calcium signaling from SGCs to neurons and among SGCs was diminished in the presence of the broad-spectrum P2 receptor antagonist suramin (50 µM) or in the presence of the gap junction blocker carbenoxolone (100 µM), whereas signaling from neurons to SGCs was reduced by suramin, but not by carbenoxolone. Following induction of submandibular inflammation by Complete Freund’s Adjuvant injection, the amplitude of signaling among SGCs and from SGCs to neuron was increased, whereas the amplitude from neuron to SGCs was reduced. These results indicate for the first time the presence of bidirectional calcium signaling between neurons and SGCs in sensory ganglia cultures, which is mediated by the activation of purinergic P2 receptors, and to some extent by gap junctions. Furthermore, the results indicate that not only sensory neurons, but also SGCs release ATP. This form of intercellular calcium signaling likely plays key roles in the modulation of neuronal activity within sensory ganglia in normal and pathological states.
Gap junctions; neuron–glial communication; orofacial hypersensitivity; purinergic receptors
During development, multipotent neural precursors give rise to oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), which migrate and divide to produce additional OPCs. Near the end of embryogenesis and during postnatal stages, many OPCs stop dividing and differentiate as myelinating oligodendrocytes, whereas others persist as nonmyelinating cells. Investigations of oligodendrocyte development in mice indicated that the Nkx2.2 transcription factor both limits the number of OPCs that are formed and subsequently promotes their differentiation, raising the possibility that Nkx2.2 plays a key role in determining myelinating versus nonmyelinating fate. We used in vivo time-lapse imaging and loss-of-function experiments in zebrafish to further explore formation and differentiation of oligodendrocyte lineage cells. Our data show that newly specified OPCs are heterogeneous with respect to gene expression and fate. Whereas some OPCs express the nkx2.2a gene and differentiate as oligodendrocytes, others that do not express nkx2.2a mostly remain as nonmyelinating OPCs. Similarly to mouse, loss of nkx2.2a function results in excess OPCs and delayed oligodendrocyte differentiation. Notably, excess OPCs are formed as a consequence of prolonged OPC production from neural precursor cells. We conclude that Nkx2.2 promotes timely specification and differentiation of myelinating oligodendrocyte lineage cells from species representing different vertebrate taxa.
Olig2; zebrafish; neural precursors; glia
There is increasing evidence that severe mood disorders are associated with impairment of structural plasticity and cellular resilience. Cumulative data demonstrate that mood stabilizers regulate intracellular signaling cascades, including protein kinase C (PKC), PKA, mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase, glycogen synthase kinase 3-β (GSK3-β) and intracellular calcium, which are signaling pathways that regulate synaptic plasticity. In this context, it is noteworthy that a growing body of data indicates that the glutamatergic system, has a major role in neuronal plasticity and cellular resilience, might be involved in the pathophysiology and treatment of mood disorders. AMPA glutamate-receptor trafficking is important in synaptic plasticity and might play crucial roles in maintaining critical neuronal circuits associated with mood. Two clinically effective, structurally dissimilar, antimanic agents, lithium and valproate (VPA), down-regulate synaptic expression of AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 in hippocampus in chronically treated rats. This reduction in synaptic GluR1 by lithium and VPA is due to attenuated phosphorylation of GluR1 at a specific PKA site (residue 845 of GluR1), which is crucial for AMPA receptor insertion. By contrast, imipramine, which can provoke mania, increases synaptic expression of GluR1 in the hippocampus in vivo. Furthermore, there is ample evidence from preclinical and clinical research that the glutamatergic system is involved in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and that many of the somatic treatments used for mood disorders including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotic drugs and electroconvulsive therapy have both direct and indirect effects on the glutamatergic system. Given these findings, further research with medications that specifically affect the glutamatergic system is warranted. Recent studies in our lab have shown that riluzole, a FDA approved medicine that regulates the glutamatergic system, shows antidepressant efficacy in unipolar and bipolar depression. These studies indicate that regulation of glutamate-mediated synaptic plasticity might play a role in the treatment of mood disorders, and raise new avenues for novel therapies for this devastating illness.
Lithium; valproate; antidepressant; bipolar disorder; glutamatergic system
Activity-dependent signaling between neurons and astrocytes contributes to experience-dependent plasticity and development of the nervous system. However, mechanisms responsible for neuron–glial interactions and the releasable factors that underlie these processes are not well understood. The pro-inflammatory cytokine, leukemia-inhibitory factor (LIF), is transiently expressed postnatally by glial cells in the hippocampus and rapidly up-regulated by enhanced neural activity following seizures. To test the hypothesis that spontaneous neural activity regulates glial development in hippocampus via LIF signaling, we blocked spontaneous activity with the sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX) in mixed hippocampal cell cultures in combination with blockers of LIF and purinergic signaling. TTX decreased the number of GFAP-expressing astrocytes in hippocampal cell culture. Furthermore, blocking purinergic signaling by P2Y receptors contributed to reduced numbers of astrocytes. Blocking activity or purinergic signaling in the presence of function-blocking antibodies to LIF did not further decrease the number of astrocytes. Moreover, hippocampal cell cultures prepared from LIF −/− mice had reduced numbers of astrocytes and activity-dependent neuron–glial signaling promoting differentiation of astrocytes was absent. The results show that endogenous LIF is required for normal development of hippocampal astrocytes, and this process is regulated by spontaneous neural impulse activity through the release of ATP.
Activity dependent; cytokine; glial differentiation; neuron–glia signaling; synaptic plasticity
Neural progenitor cells expressing the NG2 proteoglycan are found in different regions of the adult mammalian brain, where they display distinct morphologies and proliferative rates. In the developing postnatal and adult mouse, NG2+ cells represent a major cell population of the subventricular zone (SVZ). NG2+ cells divide in the anterior and lateral region of the SVZ, and are stimulated to proliferate and migrate out of the SVZ by focal demyelination of the corpus callosum (CC). Many NG2+ cells are labeled by GFP-retrovirus injection into the adult SVZ, demonstrating that NG2+ cells actively proliferate under physiological conditions and after demyelination. In the wa2 mouse, which is characterized by reduced EGFR signaling, NG2+ cell proliferation, under normal physiological conditions and after focal demyelination, is significantly attenuated. This results in reduced SVZ-to-lesion migration of NG2+ cells and oligodendrogenesis in the lesion. Expression of VEGF and EGFR ligands, such as HB-EGF and TGF-alpha, is upregulated in the SVZ after focal demyelination of the CC. EGF-induced oligodendrogenesis and myelin protein expression in cultured wild-type SVZ cells were significantly attenuated in wa2 SVZ cells. Our results demonstrate that the NG2+ cell response in the SVZ and their subsequent differentiation in CC after focal demyelination are dependent upon EGFR signaling.
NG2 progenitors; cell proliferation; cell migration; myelin; growth factors
The complexity of the adult brain is the result of an integrated series of developmental events that depends on appropriate timing of differentiation. The importance of transcriptional regulatory networks and epigenetic mechanisms of regulation of gene expression is becoming increasingly evident. Among these mechanisms, previous work has revealed the importance of histone deacetylation in oligodendrocyte differentiation. In this manuscript we define the region of interaction between transcription factor Yin-Yang 1 (YY1) and histone deacetylase 1, and characterize the functional consequences of YY1 overexpression on the differentiation of oligodendrocyte progenitors.
chromatin; transcription; development; brain; myelin; epigenetic
Myelination in the PNS is accompanied by a large induction of the Myelin Protein Zero (Mpz) gene to produce the most abundant component in peripheral myelin. Analyses of knockout mice have shown that the EGR2/Krox20 and SOX10 transcription factors are required for Mpz expression. Our recent work has shown that the dominant EGR2 mutations associated with human peripheral neuropathies cause disruption of EGR2/SOX10 synergy at specific sites, including a conserved enhancer element in the first intron of the Mpz gene. Further investigation of Egr2/Sox10 interactions reveals that activation of the Mpz intron element by Egr2 requires both Sox10-binding sites. In addition, both Egr1 and Egr3 cooperate with Sox10 to activate this element, which indicates that this capacity is conserved among Egr family members. Finally, a conserved composite structure of Egr2/Sox10-binding sites in the genes encoding Mpz, Myelin-associated glycoprotein (Mag), and Myelin Basic Protein (Mbp) genes was used to screen for similar modules in other myelin genes, revealing a potential regulatory element in the periaxin gene. Overall, these results elucidate a working model for developmental regulation of Mpz expression, several facets of which extend to regulation of other peripheral myelin genes.
Charcot; Krox20; transcription; myelin; Schwann cells
In this review, we briefly summarize what is known about the properties of the three families of gap junction proteins, connexins, innexins and pannexins, emphasizing their importance as intercellular channels that provide ionic and metabolic coupling and as non-junctional channels that can function as a paracrine signaling pathway. We discuss that two distinct groups of proteins form gap junctions in deuterostomes (connexins) and protostomes (innexins), and that channels formed of the deuterostome homologues of innexins (pannexins) differ from connexin channels in terms of important structural features and activation properties. These differences indicate that the two families of gap junction proteins serve distinct, complementary functions in deuterostomes. In several tissues, including the CNS, both connexins and pannexins are involved in intercellular communication, but have different roles. Connexins mainly contribute by forming the intercellular gap junction channels, which provide for junctional coupling and define the communication compartments in the CNS. We also provide new data supporting the concept that pannexins form the non-junctional channels that play paracrine roles by releasing ATP and, thus, modulating the range of the intercellular Ca2+-wave transmission between astrocytes in culture.
Hemichannels; gap junctions; Ca2+ waves; glia; astrocytes; purinergic receptors
Epilepsy is characterized by both neuronal and astroglial dysfunction. The endogenous anticonvulsant adenosine, the level of which is largely controlled by astrocytes, might provide a critical link between astrocyte and neuron dysfunction in epilepsy. Here we studied astrogliosis, a hallmark of the epileptic brain, adenosine dysfunction and the emergence of spontaneous seizures in a comprehensive approach including a new mouse model of focal epileptogenesis, mutant mice with altered brain levels of adenosine, and mice lacking adenosine A1 receptors. In wild type mice, following a focal epileptogenesis-precipitating injury, astrogliosis, upregulation of the adenosine-removing astrocytic enzyme adenosine kinase (ADK), and spontaneous seizures all coincided in a spatio-temporally restricted manner. Importantly, these spontaneous seizures were mimicked in untreated transgenic mice overexpressing ADK in brain or those lacking A1 receptors. Conversely, mice with reduced forebrain ADK did not develop astrogliosis or spontaneous seizures. Our studies define ADK as critical upstream regulator of A1 receptor mediated modulation of neuronal excitability and support the ADK hypothesis of epileptogenesis implicating that upregulation of ADK during astrogliosis provides a critical link between astrocyte and neuron dysfunction in epilepsy. These findings define ADK as rational target for therapeutic intervention.
Epileptogenesis; kainic acid; status epilepticus; A1 receptor; astrocyte
Expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in murine Schwann cells results in loss of axon–Schwann cell interactions and collagen deposition, modeling peripheral nerve response to injury and tumorigenesis. Mast cells infiltrate nerves in all three situations. We show that mast cells are present in normal mouse peripheral nerve beginning at 4 weeks of age, and that the number of mast-cells in EGFR+ nerves increases abruptly at 5–6 weeks of age as axons and Schwann cells dissociate. The increase in mast cell number is preceded and accompanied by elevated levels of mRNAs encoding the mast-cell chemoattractants Rantes, SCF and VEGF. Genetic ablation of mast cells and bone marrow reconstitution in W41 × EGFR+ mice indicate a role for mast cells in loss of axon – Schwann cell interactions and collagen deposition. Pharmacological stabilization of mast cells by disodium cromoglycate administration to EGFR+ mice also diminished loss of axon – Schwann cell interaction. Together these three lines of evidence support the hypothesis that mast cells can contribute to alterations in peripheral nerves.
Schwann cell; NF1; EGFR; Remak bundle
Prospero is required in dividing longitudinal glia (LG) during axon guidance; initially to enable glial division in response to neuronal contact, and subsequently to maintain glial precursors in a quiescent state with mitotic potential. Only Prospero-positive LG respond to neuronal ablation by over-proliferating, mimicking a glial-repair response. Prospero is distributed unequally through the progeny cells of the longitudinal glioblast lineage. Just before axon contact the concentration of Prospero is higher in two of the four progeny cells, and after axon guidance Prospero is present only in six out of ten progeny LG. Here we ask how Prospero is distributed unequally in these two distinct phases. We show that before neuronal contact, longitudinal glioblasts undergo invaginating divisions, perpendicular to the ectodermal layer Miranda is required to segregate Prospero asymmetrically up to the four glial-progeny stage. After neuronal contact, Prospero is present in only the LG that activate Notch signalling in response to Serrate provided by commissural axons, and Numb is restricted to the glia that do not contain Prospero. As a result of this dual regulation of Prospero deployment, glia are coupled to the formation and maintenance of axonal trajectories.
Glia; Prospero; Serrate; Numb; Notch; Miranda; Drosophila; axon guidance; neuron-glia interaction; proliferation
Satellite glial cells (SGCs) tightly envelop the perikarya of primary sensory neurons in peripheral ganglion and are identified by their morphology and the presence of proteins not found in ganglion neurons. These SGC-unique proteins include the inwardly rectifying K+ channel Kir4.1, the connexin-43 (Cx43) subunit of gap junctions, the purinergic receptor P2Y4 and soluble guanylate cyclase. We also present evidence that the small-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel SK3 is present only in SGCs and that SGCs divide following nerve injury. All the above proteins are involved, either directly or indirectly, in potassium ion (K+) buffering and, thus, can influence the level of neuronal excitability, which, in turn, has been associated with neuropathic pain conditions. We used in vivo RNA interference to reduce the expression of Cx43 (present only in SGCs) in the rat trigeminal ganglion and show that this results in the development of spontaneous pain behavior. The pain behavior is present only when Cx43 is reduced and returns to normal when Cx43 concentrations are restored. This finding shows that perturbation of a single SGC-specific protein is sufficient to induce pain responses and demonstrates the importance of PNS glial cell activity in the pathophysiology of neuropathic pain.
RNAi; Kir4.1; SK3; P2Y4; connexin-43
It has been proposed that astrocytes should no longer be viewed purely as support cells for neurons, such as providing a constant environment and metabolic substrates, but that they should also be viewed as being involved in affecting synaptic activity in an active way and, therefore, an integral part of the information-processing properties of the brain. This essay discusses the possible differences between a support and an instructive role, and concludes that any distinction has to be blurred. In view of this, and a brief overview of the nature of the data, the new evidence seems insufficient to conclude that the physiological roles of mature astrocytes go beyond a general support role. I propose a model of mature protoplasmic astrocyte function that is drawn from the most recent data on their structure, the domain concept and their syncytial characteristics, of an independent rather than integrative functioning of the ends of each process where the activities that affect synaptic activity and blood vessel diameter will be concentrated.
Homeostasis; information processing; voltage clamp; support roles; vesicular release
Management of chronic pain is a real challenge, and current treatments focusing on blocking neurotransmission in the pain pathway have only resulted in limited success. Activation of glia cells has been widely implicated in neuroinflammation in the central nervous system, leading to neruodegeneration in many disease conditions such as Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. The inflammatory mediators released by activated glial cells, such as tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β can not only cause neurodegeneration in these disease conditions, but also cause abnormal pain by acting on spinal cord dorsal horn neurons in injury conditions. Pain can also be potentiated by growth factors such as BDNF and bFGF that are produced by glia to protect neurons. Thus, glia cells can powerfully control pain when they are activated to produce various pain mediators. We will review accumulating evidence supporting an important role of microglia cells in the spinal cord for pain control under injury conditions (e.g. nerve injury). We will also discuss possible signaling mechanisms in particular MAP kinase pathways that are critical for glia control of pain. Investigating signaling mechanisms in microglia may lead to more effective management of devastating chronic pain.
microglia; MAP kinase; chemokines; cytokines; intracellular signaling; chronic pain; nerve injury