Calcium elevation in astrocytes causes an NMDA receptordependent increase in the frequency of miniature synaptic currents in cultured hippocampal neurons

Alfonso Araque, Rita P. Sanzgiri, Vladimir Parpura, Philip G. Haydon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

334 Scopus citations

Abstract

Astrocytes exhibit a form of excitability and communication on the basis of intracellular Ca2+ variations (Cornell-Bell et al., 1990; Charles et al., 1991) that can be initiated by neuronal activity (Dani et al., 1992; Porter and McCarthy, 1996). A Ca2+ elevation in astrocytes induces the release of glutamate (Parpura et al., 1994; Pasti et al., 1997; Araque et al., 1998; Bezzi et al., 1998), which evokes a slow inward current in neurons and modulates action potential-evoked synaptic transmission between cultured hippocampal cells (Araque et al., 1998), suggesting that astrocytes and neurons may function as a network with bidirectional communication. Here we show that a Ca2+ elevation in astrocytes increases the frequency of excitatory as well as inhibitory miniature postsynaptic currents (mPSCs), without modifying their amplitudes. Thapsigargin incubation, microinjection of the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA, and photolysis of the Ca2+ cage NP-EGTA demonstrate that a Ca2+ elevation in astrocytes is both necessary and sufficient to modulate spontaneous transmitter release. This Ca2+-dependent release of glutamate from astrocytes enhances mPSC frequency by acting on NMDA glutamate receptors, because it is antagonized by D-2-amino-5- phosphonopentanoic acid (AP5) or extracellular Mg2+. These NMDA receptors are located extrasynaptically, because blockage specifically of synaptic NMDA receptors by synaptic activation in the presence of the open channel blocker MK-801 did not impair the AP5-sensitive astrocyte-induced increase of mPSC frequency. Therefore, astrocytes modulate spontaneous excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission by increasing the probability of transmitter release via the activation of NMDA receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6822-6829
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume18
Issue number17
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 1998

Keywords

  • Astrocyte-neuron signaling
  • Calcium cage photolysis
  • Calcium waves
  • Hippocampal synaptic transmission
  • Miniature synaptic currents
  • NMDA glutamate receptors

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