Electrical coupling between hippocampal astrocytes in rat brain slices

Abstract : Gap junctions in astrocytes play a crucial role in intercellular communication by supporting both biochemical and electrical coupling between adjacent cells. Despite the critical role of electrical coupling in the network organization of these glial cells, the electrophysiological properties of gap junctions have been characterized in cultures while no direct evidence has been sought in situ. In the present study, gap-junctional currents were investigated using simultaneous dual whole-cell patch-clamp recordings between astrocytes from rat hippocampal slices. Bidirectional electrotonic coupling was observed in 82% of the cell pairs with an average coupling coefficient of 5.1%. Double patch-clamp analysis indicated that junctional currents were independent of the transjunctional voltage over a range from -100 to +110 mV. Interestingly, astrocytic electrical coupling displayed weak low-pass filtering properties compared to neuronal electrical synapses. Finally, during uncoupling processes triggered by either the gap-junction inhibitor carbenoxolone or endothelin-1, an increase in the input resistance in the injected cell paralleled the decrease in the coupling coefficient. Altogether, these results demonstrate that hippocampal astrocytes are electrically coupled through gap-junction channels characterized by properties that are distinct from those of electrical synapses between neurons. In addition, gap-junctional communication is efficiently regulated by endogenous compounds. This is taken to represent a mode of communication that may have important implications for the functional role of astrocyte networks in situ.
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William Même, Marie Vandecasteele, Christian Giaume, Laurent Venance. Electrical coupling between hippocampal astrocytes in rat brain slices. Neuroscience Research, Elsevier, 2009, 63 (4), pp.236-243. ⟨10.1016/j.neures.2008.12.008⟩. ⟨hal-02149164⟩



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