Age-related modifications of the morphological organization of pituicytes are associated with alteration of the GABAergic and dopaminergic innervation afferent to the neurohypophysial lobe


: Dr Gérard Alonso, as above.


Ageing is known to induce a marked activation of astrocytes within various regions of the central nervous system. To date, the age-related factors responsible for these modifications are unknown.The neural lobe of the hypophysis (NL) is a particular brain region which does not contain neurons but does contain specialized astrocytes, called pituicytes, and numerous terminals of afferent axons, including (i) peptidergic neurohypophysial axons which terminate on the NL blood vessels, and (ii) axons containing both gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA) and dopamine (DA) which form contacts with pituicytes. Because evidence has recently been provided that GABA signalling mediates the morphological organization of astrocytes, the present study was designed to determine whether modifications of pituicytes during ageing were associated with modifications of the GABAergic axons innervating the NL. We show here that, in adult rats, GABA/DA axons form preferential synaptic-like contacts with pituicytes which express both GABAA and D2 dopamine receptors. We then show that, during ageing, pituicytes undergo dramatic modifications of their morphology, correlatively with marked modifications of the GABA/DA fibres innervating the NL. Lastly, in vitro experiments indicate that modifications of the morphology of pituicytes similar to those observed during ageing were obtained by incubating isolated NL of adult rats with a GABAA receptor agonist and/or a D2 dopamine receptor antagonist, whereas inverse modifications were observed when NL of aged rats were incubated with a GABAA receptor antagonist and a D2 dopamine receptor agonist. Taken together, these data suggest that the age-related morphological changes of pituicytes result from the alteration of the GABA/DAergic innervation of the NL.