Tripartite synapses: Glia, the unacknowledged partner

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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1923 Scopus citations


According to the classical view of the nervous system, the numerically superior glial cells have inferior roles in that they provide an ideal environment for neuronal-cell function. However, there is a wave of new information suggesting that glia are intimately involved in the active control of neuronal activity and synaptic neurotransmission. Recent evidence shows that glia respond to neuronal activity with an elevation of their internal Ca2+ concentration, which triggers the release of chemical transmitters from glia themselves and, in turn, causes feedback regulation of neuronal activity and synaptic strength. In view of these new insights, this article suggests that perisynaptic Schwann cells and synaptically associated astrocytes should be viewed as integral modulatory elements of tripartite synapses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-215
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Andy Charles for his insights and comments on the manuscript. The authors were supported by funds from the NIH (P.G.H.), by a long-term fellowship from the Human Frontiers Science Program (A.A.), and by the Whitehall Foundation (V.P.).


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