Heterotypic coupling between glial cells of the mammalian central nervous system

Kathleen R. Zahs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Heterotypic coupling, defined as gap-junctional coupling between cells of different classes, may be common among the different types of non-neuronal cells in the central nervous system. Since gap junctions provide a route for the intercellular exchange of signaling molecules, heterotypic coupling may serve to coordinate the activities of many types of 'support cells' in the brain. The evidence for heterotypic coupling between astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and retinal Muller glial cells, and astrocytes and ependymal cells is reviewed. The finding that some heterotypic gap junctions are chemically rectifying implies that there is asymmetry between the two sides of these gap junctions, and the connexin composition of heterotypic gap junctions is discussed. Finally, I speculate about the functions of heterotypic gap junctions, including their proposed roles in K+ spatial buffering around axons and in the propagation of intercellular Ca2+ waves between astrocytes and other glial cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1998


  • Astrocyte
  • Connexin
  • Gap junction
  • Glia
  • Intercellular coupling
  • Muller cell
  • Oligodendrocyte
  • Review


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