, Volume 25, Issue 9-10, pp 1439-1451

Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein: GFAP-Thirty-One Years (1969–2000)

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Abstract

It is now well established that the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is the principal 8–9 nm intermediate filament in mature astrocytes of the central nervous system (CNS). Over a decade ago, the value of GFAP as a prototype antigen in nervous tissue identification and as a standard marker for fundamental and applied research at an interdisciplinary level was recognized (Raine, 135). As a member of the cytoskeletal protein family, GFAP is thought to be important in modulating astrocyte motility and shape by providing structural stability to astrocytic processes. In the CNS of higher vertebrates, following injury, either as a result of trauma, disease, genetic disorders, or chemical insult, astrocytes become reactive and respond in a typical manner, termed astrogliosis. Astrogliosis is characterized by rapid synthesis of GFAP and is demonstrated by increase in protein content or by immunostaining with GFAP antibody. In addition to the major application of GFAP antisera for routine use in astrocyte identification in the CNS, the molecular cloning of the mouse gene in 1985 has opened a new and rich realm for GFAP studies. These include antisense, null mice, and numerous promoter studies. Studies showing that mice lacking GFAP are hypersensitive to cervical spinal cord injury caused by sudden acceleration of the head have provided more direct evidence for a structural role of GFAP. While the structural function of GFAP has become more acceptable, the use of GFAP antibodies and promoters continue to be valuable in studying CNS injury, disease, and development.