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Hippocampal astrocytes encode reward location

Abstract

Astrocytic calcium dynamics has been implicated in the encoding of sensory information1,2,3,4,5, and modulation of calcium in astrocytes has been shown to affect behaviour6,7,8,9,10. However, longitudinal investigation of the real-time calcium activity of astrocytes in the hippocampus of awake mice is lacking. Here we used two-photon microscopy to chronically image CA1 astrocytes as mice ran in familiar or new virtual environments to obtain water rewards. We found that astrocytes exhibit persistent ramping activity towards the reward location in a familiar environment, but not in a new one. Shifting the reward location within a familiar environment also resulted in diminished ramping. After additional training, as the mice became familiar with the new context or new reward location, the ramping was re-established. Using linear decoders, we could predict the location of the mouse in a familiar environment from astrocyte activity alone. We could not do the same in a new environment, suggesting that the spatial modulation of astrocytic activity is experience dependent. Our results indicate that astrocytes can encode the expected reward location in spatial contexts, thereby extending their known computational abilities and their role in cognitive functions.

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Fig. 1: Ca2+ imaging of CA1 astrocytes in mice navigating a virtual reality.
Fig. 2: Astrocytic activity increases as mice move towards the reward location.
Fig. 3: Astrocytic activity ramps as mice move towards the reward location in familiar environments, but not in new environments.
Fig. 4: Decoding of mouse trajectory from astrocytic activity in the familiar environment.

Data availability

All source data are provided with the paper. All datasets are provided at GitHub (https://github.com/GoshenLab/Astro_imaging/). Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The custom code used in this paper is provided at GitHub (https://github.com/GoshenLab/Astro_imaging/).

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Acknowledgements

We thank all of the members of the Goshen laboratory for their support; and A. Citri, Y. Burak, Y. Loewenstein, E. Malach, A. Kaduri Amichai, A. Adamsky and A. Kol for reading the manuscript. A.D. is supported by the Azrieli fellowship and the ELSC graduate students' scholarship. This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no. 803589), the Israel Science Foundation (ISF grant no. 1815/18) and the Canada-Israel grants (CIHR-ISF, grant no. 2591/18).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

A.D. performed all of the experiments with help from A.B.-C., N.B., T.C., R.R., N.N. and T.K., and performed the analysis with help from A.R. and Y.Z.; A.D. and I.G. wrote the manuscript with assistance from A.R. and Y.Z.; I.G. supervised all aspects of the project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Inbal Goshen.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature thanks Caswell Barry and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.

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Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Apparatus for Imaging Astrocytes in Behaving Mice.

A. Two environments consisting of different belts with tactile cues and virtual reality displays. B. Selective expression of GCaMP6f in CA1 astrocytes following injection of AAV-GFAP::cyto-GCaMP6f to an Ai14XSST-Cre mouse. GCaMP6f was expressed in > 92% of CA1 astrocytes (212/230 cells from 3 mice; 92.73% ± 1.65 of GFAP positive cells were also GCaMP6f positive), with > 94% specificity (212/224 cells from 3 mice; 94.58% ± 0.29 of GCaMP6f positive cells were also GFAP positive). Minimal co-localization with SST or PV positive cells or the neuronal marker NeuN was detected (1.65% expression in neurons, 11/668 cells; 1.55% ± 0.54 of GCaMP6f positive cells were also NeuN positive; scale bars: 50 µm). C. ROI centroid distance was negatively correlated with the mean pairwise event correlation (pooled data from n = 8 mice). D. ROI size was positively correlated with mean event probability (pooled data from n = 8 mice). Data presented as mean±SEM.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 2 Astrocytic Activity Explains Location More Accurately Than Velocity.

A. The mean number of concurrent astrocytic events following reward delivery in all laps of the same mouse shown in Fig. 2a–c. B. Mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of time following reward delivery in all mice presented in Fig. 2d (blue is the one from A), showing significant reduction over time (Pearson’s r: −0.4 ± 0.04, 1-sided permutation tests, p ≤ 0.006 in all 9 mice). C. The mean normalized ΔF/F as a function of binned location, showing significant ramping in all mice shown in Fig. 2d (Pearson’s r: 0.25 ± 0.03, 1-sided permutation tests, p ≤ 0.018 in all 9 mice). D-E. Both the astrocytic somata and processes show significant ramping. D. The mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of binned location calculated separately for the somata and processes of the mouse shown in Fig. 2a–c (n = 59 somata and n = 67 processes). E. The correlation between location and concurrent events in the somata is not significantly different from the processes (Pearson’s r: 0.36 ± 0.03 and 0.38 ± 0.03, 1-sided permutation tests, p ≤ 0.014 and p ≤ 0.025 in the somata and processes respectively, n = 424 somata and n = 455 processes from n = 8 mice; 2-sided paired t-test, t(7) = 0.92, p = 0.39). F. The mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of binned location when the reward was given in random locations along the track, showing no apparent ramping (Pearson’s r: 0.02 ± 0.02, 1-sided permutation tests, p ≥ 0.084 for all 3 mice; The dashed square denotes the previously learnt constant reward location). G. The mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of binned location when the VR display was turned off, showing significant ramping in most mice (Pearson’s r: 0.2 ± 0.04, 1-sided permutation test, p ≤ 0.009, n = 3 mice; Pearson’s r: 0.11, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.075, n = 1 mouse). H. Same as Fig. 2f, calculated using the ΔF/F traces, showing ramping towards the reward location in many ROIs with significant spatial information. I. The mean number of concurrent events of the mouse shown in Fig. 2a–c as a function of binned normalized velocities in all laps. Grey bins denote no samples. J. Mean number of concurrent events as a function of binned normalized velocities, normalized by shuffled data in all mice presented in Fig. 2d (blue is the one from A), (Pearson’s r: 0.17 ± 0.04, 1-sided permutation test, p ≥ 0.084 in n = 4 mice, p ≤ 0.025 in n = 5 mice). K. The mean number of concurrent events as a function of location and normalized velocity in the mouse shown in Fig. 2a–c. Ramping is more prominent across locations than velocities. L. The mean STD of the astrocytic population activity across locations for a given velocity (STDlocations|velocity) weighted by the time spent in the location x velocity is significantly larger than vice versa (STDvelocities|location)(STDlocations|velocity: 3.62 ± 0.44, STDvelocities|location: 7.37 ± 0.74, 2-sided paired t-test, n = 9 mice, t(8) = 6.56, p =  = 0.0002). M. The mean distribution of the difference between the mean weighted STDlocations|velocity and STDvelocities|location for single ROIs from the 9 mice shown in Fig. 2d. Most ROIs vary more across locations than across velocities. N-O. General linear models were used to fit the number of concurrent astrocytic events as a linear function of different behavioural variables, showing that location had a unique contribution to the variance of astrocytic activity. N. The model performance was significantly better when it was fitted on the actual location data compared to shuffled location (coefficient of determination (r2) between the model prediction and the actual number of concurrent events: 0.25 ± 0.04 and 0.18 ± 0.03 for real and shuffled location inputs respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p ≤ 0.027 in n = 8 mice, p = 0.35 in n = 1 mouse). O. Cross-validated models that included location as their input performed significantly better than reduced models without it (r2: 0.21 ± 0.04 and 0.15 ± 0.03 in full and reduced models respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p < 0.004 in n = 8 mice, p = 0.065 in n = 1 mouse). Data presented as mean (bold line) ±SEM (shaded area). Different mice are colour-coded as in Fig. 2d.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 3 Astrocytic Activity Does Not Ramp Towards Rewarding Location in a New Environment.

A. The correlation between location and astrocytic activity in repeated active ROIs was significantly higher in the familiar environment compared to the new one (Pearson’s r: 0.41 ± 0.03 and 0.2 ± 0.05 in the familiar or new environment, respectively, n = 7 mice, 2-sided paired t-test, t(6) = 8.04, p = 0.0002). B. The repeated active ROI pairs that had significant mutual information (MI) in each environment of the mouse shown in Fig. 3a, b. C. The mean proportion of significant MI repeated active ROI pairs in the familiar environment is significantly higher than in the new environment (0.39 ± 0.08 and 0.16 ± 0.04 in the familiar and new environment, respectively, 2-sided paired t-test, n = 7 mice, t(6) = 2.45, p = 0.0495). D. The mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of location in the familiar environment and (E) in the new environment for all active ROIs, not just the repeated ones, in the 7 mice shown in Fig. 3c, d. F. The ramping of astrocytic activity is significantly larger in the familiar environment than in the new environment (Pearson’s r: 0.44 ± 0.03 and 0.16 ± 0.03 in the familiar or novel environment, respectively, 2-sided independent samples t-test, n = 7 mice, t(12) = 6.11, p = 0.00005). G. Two mice were imaged for the third time in the familiar environment after the exposure to the new environment. The mean normalized number of concurrent events as a function of location shows that ramping is maintained (Pearson’s r: 0.31 ± 0.11, 1-sided permutation test, p < 0.01). Data presented as mean (bold line) ±SEM (shaded area). Different mice are colour-coded as in Fig. 2d.

Source data

Extended Data Fig. 4 Performance of Mice Location Decoders in Familiar Environment.

A-F. Pooled error cumulative probability plots of the mice that appear in the averaged data in Fig. 4. A. Mean error size: 43.7 ± 0.1 and 54.1 ± 0.1, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.009). B. Mean error size: 41.4 ± 0.2 and 61.1 ± 0.3, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.027). C. Mean error size: 37.8 ± 0.2 and 56.6 ± 0.2, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.009). D. Mean error size: 49.6 ± 0.2 and 60.2 ± 0.2, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.151). E. Mean error size: 43.9 ± 0.3 and 62.6 ± 0.2, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.037). F. Mean error size: 49.9 ± 0.1 and 62.2 ± 0.2, for the decoder trained on the real data and the shuffled data respectively, 1-sided permutation test, p = 0.061). Data presented as mean (bold line) ±SEM (shaded area). Different mice are colour-coded as in Fig. 2d.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Table 1: supplementary statics describing the statistics calculated for each mouse presented throughout the paper.

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Supplementary Video 1

Two-photon Ca2+ imaging of CA1 astrocytes in two different FOVs. A video showing astrocytic Ca2+ activity in two FOVs, acquired using a fast-tuneable lens focusing on different depths. Imaging in each FOV was acquired at 7.745 frames per second and is shown after motion correction. The video playback is sped up fourfold compared with the original acquisition rate.

Supplementary Video 2

Ca2+ imaging of numerous CA1 astrocytes during virtual navigation. A video showing the Ca2+ dynamics in CA1 astrocytes (left) and the simultaneously recorded mouse location in the virtual environment (right). As the mouse approaches the known reward location, the astrocytic population gradually increases its activity. A total of 126 ROIs were segmented in the complete dataset, which includes an additional FOV (not shown), and their extracted signal is shown in Fig. 2a. Imaging in each FOV was acquired at 7.745 frames per second and is shown after motion correction. The video playback is sped up fourfold compared with the original acquisition rate.

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Doron, A., Rubin, A., Benmelech-Chovav, A. et al. Hippocampal astrocytes encode reward location. Nature 609, 772–778 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05146-6

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