Astrocyte calcium signals at Schaffer collateral to CA1 pyramidal cell synapses correlate with the number of activated synapses but not with synaptic strength



Glial cells respond to neuronal activity by transient increases in their intracellular calcium concentration. At hippocampal Schaffer collateral to CA1 pyramidal cell synapses, such activity-induced astrocyte calcium transients modulate neuronal excitability, synaptic activity, and LTP induction threshold by calcium-dependent release of gliotransmitters. Despite a significant role of astrocyte calcium signaling in plasticity of these synapses, little is known about activity-dependent changes of astrocyte calcium signaling itself. In this study, we analyzed calcium transients in identified astrocytes and NG2-cells located in the stratum radiatum in response to different intensities and patterns of Schaffer collateral stimulation. To this end, we employed multiphoton calcium imaging with the low-affinity indicator dye Fluo-5F in glial cells, combined with extracellular field potential recordings to monitor postsynaptic responses to the afferent stimulation. Our results confirm that somata and processes of astrocytes, but not of NG2-cells, exhibit intrinsic calcium signaling independent of evoked neuronal activity. Moderate stimulation of Schaffer collaterals (three pulses at 50 Hz) induced calcium transients in astrocytes and NG2-cells. Astrocyte calcium transients upon this three-pulse stimulation could be evoked repetitively, increased in amplitude with increasing stimulation intensity and were dependent on activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors. Activity-induced transients in NG2-cells, in contrast, showed a rapid run-down upon repeated three-pulse stimulation. Theta burst stimulation and stimulation for 5 min at 1 Hz induced synaptic potentiation and depression, respectively, as revealed by a lasting increase or decrease in population spike amplitudes upon three-pulse stimulation. Synaptic plasticity was, however, not accompanied by corresponding alterations in the amplitude of astrocyte calcium signals. Taken together, our results suggest that the amplitude of astrocyte calcium signals reflects the number of activated synapses but does not correlate with the degree of synaptic potentiation or depression at Schaffer collateral to CA1 pyramidal cell synapses. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Inc.