Synaptic regulation of the astrocyte calcium signal
During the last years, a great amount of evidence demonstrates the existence of bidirectional communication between astrocytes and neurons, which has revealed an important active role of astrocytes in the physiology of the nervous system. As a consequence of this evidence, a new concept of the synaptic physiology – “the tripartite synapse”– has been proposed, in which the synapse is formed by three functional elements, i.e., the pre- and postsynaptic elements and the surrounding astrocytes. In this scenario astrocytes play an active role as dynamic regulatory elements in neurotransmission by reciprocally exchanging information with the pre- and postsynaptic elements. The control of the Ca2+ excitability in astrocytes is a key element in this loop of information exchange. In the present article we review and discuss our current knowledge of the properties of the astrocyte intracellular Ca2+ signal and its modulation by the synaptic activity.
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