Morphological plasticity of rodent astroglia

Authors

  • Richard Burnard Rodnight,

    1. School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy and Hunter Medical Research Institute, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
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    • In memoriam 1921–2012
  • Carmem Gottfried

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Health's Basic Science, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
    • School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy and Hunter Medical Research Institute, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
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Address correspondence and reprint requests to Carmem Gottfried, Departamento de Bioquímica, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Rua Ramiro Barcelos 2600 anexo, 90035, 003, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. E-mail: cgottfried@ufrgs.br

Abstract

In the past two decades, there has been an explosion of research on the role of neuroglial interactions in the control of brain homeostasis in both physiological and pathological conditions. Astrocytes, a subtype of glia in the central nervous system, are dynamic signaling elements that regulate neurogenesis and development of brain circuits, displaying intimate dynamic relationships with neurons, especially at synaptic sites where they functionally integrate the tripartite synapse. When astrocytes are isolated from the brain and maintained in culture, they exhibit a polygonal shape unlike their precursors in vivo. However, cultured astrocytes can be induced to undergo morphological plasticity leading to process formation, either by interaction with neurons or by the influence of pharmacological agents. This review highlights studies on the molecular mechanisms underlying morphological plasticity in astrocyte cultures and intact brain tissue, both in situ and in vivo.

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