How astrocytic Ca2+ signalling interacts with neural activity in vivo and affects behaviour is not well understood. A new study in Drosophila melanogaster found that astrocytic knockdown of a transient receptor potential cation channel inhibited somatic astrocytic Ca2+ transients and impaired olfactory behaviour and touch-induced startle responses in larvae. It also identified a neuronal population that, via the release of octopamine (Oct) and tyramine (Tyr), induced such transients and showed that disruption of this Oct and Tyr signalling led to the behavioural deficits. Last, the study revealed that these astrocytes seem to influence behaviour through effects on dopaminergic neurons.
Ma, Z. et al. Neuromodulators signal through astrocytes to alter neural circuit activity and behaviour. Nature 539, 428–432 (2016)