Methods in Molecular Biology Volume 814, 2012, pp 23-45
Date: 11 Nov 2011

Heterogeneity of Astrocytic Form and Function

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

Astrocytes participate in all essential CNS functions, including blood flow regulation, energy metabolism, ion and water homeostasis, immune defence, neurotransmission, and adult neurogenesis. It is thus not surprising that astrocytic morphology and function differ between regions, and that different subclasses of astrocytes exist within the same brain region. Recent lines of work also show that the complexity of protoplasmic astrocytes increases during evolution. Human astrocytes are structurally more complex, larger, and propagate calcium signals significantly faster than rodent astrocytes. In this chapter, we review the diversity of astrocytic form and function, while considering the markedly expanded roles of astrocytes with phylogenetic evolution. We also define major challenges for the future, which include determining how astrocytic functions are locally specified, defining the molecular controls upon astrocytic fate and physiology and establishing how evolutionary changes in astrocytes contribute to higher cognitive functions.