Lateral regulation of synaptic transmission by astrocytes

A. Covelo, A. Araque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Fifteen years ago the concept of the "tripartite synapse" was proposed to conceptualize the functional view that astrocytes are integral elements of synapses. The signaling exchange between astrocytes and neurons within the tripartite synapse results in the synaptic regulation of synaptic transmission and plasticity through an autocrine form of communication. However, recent evidence indicates that the astrocyte synaptic regulation is not restricted to the active tripartite synapse but can be manifested through astrocyte signaling at synapses relatively distant from active synapses, a process termed lateral astrocyte synaptic regulation. This phenomenon resembles the classical heterosynaptic modulation but is mechanistically different because it involves astrocytes and its properties critically depend on the morphological and functional features of astrocytes. Therefore, the functional concept of the tripartite synapse as a fundamental unit must be expanded to include the interaction between tripartite synapses. Through lateral synaptic regulation, astrocytes serve as an active processing bridge for synaptic interaction and crosstalk between synapses with no direct neuronal connectivity, supporting the idea that neural network function results from the coordinated activity of astrocytes and neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-66
Number of pages5
StatePublished - May 26 2016

Bibliographical note

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© 2015 IBRO.


  • Astrocyte-neuron interaction
  • Astrocytes
  • Gliotransmission
  • Synaptic transmission


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