3/5/10: Ken McCarthy article published in Science

Hippocampal Short- and Long-Term Plasticity Are Not Modulated by Astrocyte Ca2+ Signaling

Cendra Agulhon,1,* Todd A. Fiacco,2 Ken D. McCarthy1

The concept that astrocytes release neuroactive molecules (gliotransmitters) to affect synaptic transmission has been a paradigm shift in neuroscience research over the past decade. This concept suggests that astrocytes, together with pre- and postsynaptic neuronal elements, make up a functional synapse. Astrocyte release of gliotransmitters (for example, glutamate and adenosine triphosphate) is generally accepted to be a Ca2+-dependent process. We used two mouse lines to either selectively increase or obliterate astrocytic Gq G protein–coupled receptor Ca2+ signaling to further test the hypothesis that astrocytes release gliotransmitters in a Ca2+-dependent manner to affect synaptic transmission. Neither increasing nor obliterating astrocytic Ca2+ fluxes affects spontaneous and evoked excitatory synaptic transmission or synaptic plasticity. Our findings suggest that, at least in the hippocampus, the concept of gliotransmission need to be reconsidered.

Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Genetic Medicine Building, CB 7365, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
2 Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521, USA.