Department of Neurophysiology and Neuropharmacology
Center for Physiology and Pharmacology
Medical University of Vienna
Researcher Profile Vered KELLNER
”Neuron-astrocyte coordinated spontaneous activity in developing auditory and visual systems”
Spontaneous neuronal activity emerges from developing sensory organs before they can respond to the external world. The mechanisms through which this highly stereotyped neuronal burst firing induces maturation of sensory systems remains poorly understood. Astrocytes, one of the major glial cell types in the brain, promote the formation and function of neuronal synapses; however, it has not been possible to monitor the activity of these distinct cell types in living animals during this crucial period of circuit refinement. Using selective genetic manipulations and in vivo imaging in awake mouse pups, we demonstrate that astrocytes and neurons exhibit highly coordinated spontaneous activity before the onset of hearing within sound processing regions of the auditory midbrain and cortex. Astrocyte calcium events occurred in response to the most intense neuronal events and were mediated by synergistic activation of two types of metabotropic glutamate receptors on astrocytes. By measuring astrocyte-neuron coordination also in the visual midbrain, we show that this phenomenon is robust amongst sensory systems, though there were also differences between the brain areas. Identifying astrocytes as potential mediators of activity-dependent circuit maturation provides potential new therapeutic targets for treating neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder.
Contact for questions: Helmut KUBISTA