Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans regulate astrocyte-dependent synaptogenesis and modulate synaptic activity in primary embryonic hippocampal neurons


Andreas Faissner, as above.


It has been shown that astrocyte-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) is important for formation and maintenance of CNS synapses. In order to study the effects of glial-derived ECM on synaptogenesis, E18 rat hippocampal neurons and primary astrocytes were co-cultivated using a cell-insert system. Under these conditions, neurons differentiated under low density conditions (3500 cells/cm2) in defined, serum-free medium and in the absence of direct, membrane-mediated neuron–astrocyte interactions. Astrocytes promoted the formation of structurally intact synapses, as documented by the co-localisation of bassoon- and ProSAP1/Shank2-positive puncta, markers of the pre- and postsynapse, respectively. The development of synapses was paralleled by the emergence of perineuronal net (PNN)-like structures that contained various ECM components such as hyaluronic acid, brevican and neurocan. In order to assess potential functions for synaptogenesis, the ECM was removed by treatment with hyaluronidase or chondroitinase ABC. Both enzymes significantly enhanced the number of synaptic puncta. Whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings of control and enzyme-treated hippocampal neurons revealed that chondroitinase ABC treatment led to a significant decrease in amplitude and a reduced charge of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents, whereas inhibitory postsynaptic currents were not affected. When the response to the application of glutamate was measured, a reduced sensitivity could be detected and resulted in decreased currents in response to the excitatory neurotransmitter. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that the ECM partakes in the regulation of the density of glutamate receptors in subsynaptic sites.