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Astrocyte Ca2+ signalling: an unexpected complexity

Abstract

Astrocyte Ca2+ signalling has been proposed to link neuronal information in different spatial–temporal dimensions to achieve a higher level of brain integration. However, some discrepancies in the results of recent studies challenge this view and highlight key insufficiencies in our current understanding. In parallel, new experimental approaches that enable the study of astrocyte physiology at higher spatial–temporal resolution in intact brain preparations are beginning to reveal an unexpected level of compartmentalization and sophistication in astrocytic Ca2+ dynamics. This newly revealed complexity needs to be attentively considered in order to understand how astrocytes may contribute to brain information processing.

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Figure 1: Diversity of endogenous Ca2+ activity in a mature hippocampal astrocyte in situ: Ca2+ signals in cell body and processes are different.
Figure 2: An emerging view: astrocytes display structural–functional heterogeneity that shapes the diversity of Ca2+ responses.
Figure 3: Different astrocytic Ca2+ signalling pathways may contribute to different forms of hippocampal LTP.

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Acknowledgements

Research in the Volterra laboratory is supported by the ERC Advanced grant 340368 “Astromnesis” and by Swiss National Science Foundation grants 31003A 140999, NCCR “Synapsy” and NCCR “Transcure”.

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Volterra, A., Liaudet, N. & Savtchouk, I. Astrocyte Ca2+ signalling: an unexpected complexity. Nat Rev Neurosci 15, 327–335 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3725

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