Activity-dependent switch of GABAergic inhibition into glutamatergic excitation in astrocyte-neuron networks.

Interneurons are critical for proper neural network function and can activate Ca2+ signaling in astrocytes. However, the impact of the interneuron-astrocyte signaling into neuronal network operation remains unknown. Using the simplest hippocampal Astrocyte-Neuron network, i.e., GABAergic interneuron, pyramidal neuron, single CA3-CA1 glutamatergic synapse, and astrocytes, we found that interneuron-astrocyte signaling dynamically affected excitatory neurotransmission in an activity- and time-dependent manner, and determined the sign (inhibition vs potentiation) of the GABA-mediated effects. While synaptic inhibition was mediated by GABAA receptors, potentiation involved astrocyte GABAB receptors, astrocytic glutamate release, and presynaptic metabotropic glutamate receptors. Using conditional astrocyte-specific GABAB receptor (Gabbr1) knockout mice, we confirmed the glial source of the interneuron-induced potentiation, and demonstrated the involvement of astrocytes in hippocampal theta and gamma oscillations in vivo. Therefore, astrocytes decode interneuron activity and transform inhibitory into excitatory signals, contributing to the emergence of novel network properties resulting from the interneuron-astrocyte interplay.

Neuromodulators signal through astrocytes to alter neural circuit activity and behaviour.

Astrocytes associate with synapses throughout the brain and express receptors for neurotransmitters that can increase intracellular calcium (Ca2+). Astrocytic Ca2+ signalling has been proposed to modulate neural circuit activity, but the pathways that regulate these events are poorly defined and in vivo evidence linking changes in astrocyte Ca2+ levels to alterations in neurotransmission or behaviour is limited. Here we show that Drosophila astrocytes exhibit activity-regulated Ca2+ signalling in vivo. Tyramine and octopamine released from neurons expressing tyrosine decarboxylase 2 (Tdc2) signal directly to astrocytes to stimulate Ca2+ increases through the octopamine/tyramine receptor (Oct-TyrR) and the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel Water witch (Wtrw), and astrocytes in turn modulate downstream dopaminergic neurons. Application of tyramine or octopamine to live preparations silenced dopaminergic neurons and this inhibition required astrocytic Oct-TyrR and Wtrw. Increasing astrocyte Ca2+ signalling was sufficient to silence dopaminergic neuron activity, which was mediated by astrocyte endocytic function and adenosine receptors. Selective disruption of Oct-TyrR or Wtrw expression in astrocytes blocked astrocytic Ca2+ signalling and profoundly altered olfactory-driven chemotaxis and touch-induced startle responses. Our work identifies Oct-TyrR and Wtrw as key components of the astrocytic Ca2+ signalling machinery, provides direct evidence that octopamine- and tyramine-based neuromodulation can be mediated by astrocytes, and demonstrates that astrocytes are essential for multiple sensory-driven behaviours in Drosophila.

Coupled Activation of Primary Sensory Neurons Contributes to Chronic Pain.

Primary sensory neurons in the DRG play an essential role in initiating pain by detecting painful stimuli in the periphery. Tissue injury can sensitize DRG neurons, causing heightened pain sensitivity, often leading to chronic pain. Despite the functional importance, how DRG neurons function at a population level is unclear due to the lack of suitable tools. Here we developed an imaging technique that allowed us to simultaneously monitor the activities of >1,600 neurons/DRG in live mice and discovered a striking neuronal coupling phenomenon that adjacent neurons tend to activate together following tissue injury. This coupled activation occurs among various neurons and is mediated by an injury-induced upregulation of gap junctions in glial cells surrounding DRG neurons. Blocking gap junctions attenuated neuronal coupling and mechanical hyperalgesia. Therefore, neuronal coupling represents a new form of neuronal plasticity in the DRG and contributes to pain hypersensitivity by “hijacking” neighboring neurons through gap junctions.

Neuron-glia Signaling in Developing Retina Mediated by Neurotransmitter Spillover.

Neuron-glia interactions play a critical role in the maturation of neural circuits; however, little is known about the pathways that mediate their communication in the developing CNS. We investigated neuron-glia signaling in the developing retina, where we demonstrate that retinal waves reliably induce calcium transients in Müller glial cells (MCs). During cholinergic waves, MC calcium transients were blocked by muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonists, whereas during glutamatergic waves, MC calcium transients were inhibited by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists, indicating that the responsiveness of MCs changes to match the neurotransmitter used to support retinal waves. Using an optical glutamate sensor we show that the decline in MC calcium transients is caused by a reduction in the amount of glutamate reaching MCs. Together, these studies indicate that neurons and MCs exhibit correlated activity during a critical period of retinal maturation that is enabled by neurotransmitter spillover from retinal synapses.

Norepinephrine controls astroglial responsiveness to local circuit activity.

Astrocytes perform crucial supportive functions, including neurotransmitter clearance, ion buffering, and metabolite delivery. They can also influence blood flow and neuronal activity by releasing gliotransmitters in response to intracellular Ca(2+) transients. However, little is known about how astrocytes are engaged during different behaviors in vivo. Here we demonstrate that norepinephrine primes astrocytes to detect changes in cortical network activity. We show in mice that locomotion triggers simultaneous activation of astrocyte networks in multiple brain regions. This global stimulation of astrocytes was inhibited by alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists and abolished by depletion of norepinephrine from the brain. Although astrocytes in visual cortex of awake mice were rarely engaged when neurons were activated by light stimulation alone, pairing norepinephrine release with light stimulation markedly enhanced astrocyte Ca(2+) signaling. Our findings indicate that norepinephrine shifts the gain of astrocyte networks according to behavioral state, enabling astrocytes to respond to local changes in neuronal activity.

Neuronal activity regulates glutamate transporter dynamics in developing astrocytes.

Glutamate transporters (GluTs) maintain a low ambient level of glutamate in the central nervous system (CNS) and shape the activation of glutamate receptors at synapses. Nevertheless, the mechanisms that regulate the trafficking and localization of transporters near sites of glutamate release are poorly understood. Here, we examined the subcellular distribution and dynamic remodeling of the predominant GluT GLT-1 (excitatory amino acid transporter 2, EAAT2) in developing hippocampal astrocytes. Immunolabeling revealed that endogenous GLT-1 is concentrated into discrete clusters along branches of developing astrocytes that were apposed preferentially to synapsin-1 positive synapses. Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-GLT-1 fusion proteins expressed in astrocytes also formed distinct clusters that lined the edges of astrocyte processes, as well as the tips of filopodia and spine-like structures. Time-lapse three-dimensional confocal imaging in tissue slices revealed that GFP-GLT-1 clusters were dynamically remodeled on a timescale of minutes. Some transporter clusters moved within developing astrocyte branches as filopodia extended and retracted, while others maintained stable positions at the tips of spine-like structures. Blockade of neuronalactivity with tetrodotoxin reduced both the density and perisynaptic localization of GLT-1 clusters. Conversely, enhancement of neuronal activity increased the size of GLT-1 clusters and their proximity to synapses. Together, these findings indicate that neuronal activity influences both the organization of GluTs in developing astrocyte membranes and their position relative to synapses.

Vesicular release of glutamate from unmyelinated axons in white matter

Directed fusion of transmitter-laden vesicles enables rapid intercellular signaling in the central nervous system and occurs at synapses within gray matter. Here we show that action potentials also induce the release of glutamate from axons in the corpus callosum, a white matter region responsible for interhemispheric communication. Callosal axonsreleaseglutamate by vesicular fusion, which induces quantal AMPA receptor-mediated currents in NG2(+) glial progenitors at anatomically distinct axo-glial synaptic junctions. Glutamaterelease from axons was facilitated by repetitive stimulation and could be inhibited through activation of metabotropic autoreceptors. Although NG2(+) cells form associations with nodes of Ranvier in white matter, measurements of conduction velocity indicated that unmyelinated fibers are responsible for glutamatergic signaling with NG2(+) glia. This activity-dependent secretion of glutamate was prevalent in the developing and mature mouse corpus callosum, indicating that axons within white matter both conduct action potentials and engage in rapid neuron-glia communication.

Astrocyte glutamate transporters regulate metabotropic glutamate receptor-mediated excitation of hippocampal interneurons.

Clearance of extracellular glutamate is essential for limiting the activity of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) at excitatory synapses; however, the relative contribution of transporters found in neuronal and glial membranes to this uptake is poorly understood. Hippocampalinterneurons located at the oriens-alveus border express mGluR1alpha, a metabotropic glutamate receptor that regulates excitability and synaptic plasticity. To determine which glutamate transporters are essential for removing glutamate at these excitatory synapses, we recorded mGluR1-mediated EPSCs from oriens-lacunosum moleculare (O-LM) interneurons in acute hippocampal slices. Stimulation in stratum oriens reliably elicited a slow mGluR1-mediated current in O-LM interneurons if they were briefly depolarized to allow Ca2+ entry before stimulation. Selective inhibition of GLT-1 [for glutamate transporter; EAAT2 (for excitatory amino acid transporter)] with dihydrokainate increased the amplitude of these responses approximately threefold, indicating that these transporters compete with mGluRs for synaptically released glutamate. However, inhibition of all glutamate transporters with TBOA (DL-threo-b-benzyloxyaspartic acid) increased mGluR1 EPSCs >15-fold, indicating that additional transporters also shape activation of these receptors. To identify these transporters, we examined mGluR1 EPSCs in mice lacking GLAST (for glutamate-aspartate transporter; EAAT1) or EAAC1 (for excitatory amino acid carrier; EAAT3). A comparison of responses recorded from wild-type and transporter knock-out mice revealed that the astroglial glutamate transporters GLT-1 and GLAST, but not the neuronal transporter EAAC1, restrict activation of mGluRs in O-LM interneurons. Transporter-dependent potentiation of mGluR1 EPSCs led to a dramatic increase in interneuron firing and enhanced inhibition of CA1 pyramidal neurons, suggesting that acute or prolonged disruption of transporter activity could lead to changes in network activity as a result of enhanced interneuron excitability.