• Astrocytes;
  • Cell culture;
  • Stellation;
  • Protein kinase C;
  • Scanning confocal light microscopy;
  • Phorbol ester


Stellation is the process by which astrocytes change from epithelial-like to process-bearing cells. Stellation occurs following activation of either cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase or protein kinase C. This process occurs through tubulin-dependent rearrangement of the cytoskeleton. We have evaluated the ability of phorbol, 12-myristate, 13-acetate (PMA) to induce astrocyte stellation. Astrocytes from five brain regions (cerebellum, cerebral cortex, hippocampus, diencephalon, and brain-stem) were examined to determine if all astrocytes would exhibit similar responses to this activator of protein kinase C. Stellation was evaluated following cell fixation by either phase optics using conventional light microscop, or scanning laser confocal light microscopy of cultures prepared using immunocytochemistry for tubulin and glial fibrillary acidic protein. Both the number of cells responding to PMA and the sensitivity to PMA varied for astrocytes from each brain region. PMA-induced stellation was most robust in cerebellar and brainstem astrocytes, with greater than 70% responding. Less than 40% of hippocampal and diencephalic astrocytes responded to PMA at the maximum does (10−5 M). PMA also induced different numbers of processes or branching patterns of processes on astrocytes from different brain regions. The protein kinase C induced stellation response in astrocytes supports the hypothesis that astrocytes contribute to neural plasticity. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.