An extracellular signaling component in propagation of astrocytic calcium waves

T. D. Hassinger, P. B. Guthrie, P. B. Atkinson, M. V.L. Bennett, S. B. Kater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Focally evoked calcium waves in astrocyte cultures have been thought to propagate by gap-junction-mediated intercellular passage of chemical signal(s). In contrast to this mechanism we observed isolated astrocytes, which had no physical contact with other astrocytes in the culture, participating in a calcium wave. This observation requires an extracellular route of astrocyte signaling. To directly test for extracellular signaling we made cell-free lanes 10-300 μm wide in confluent cultures by deleting astrocytes with a glass pipette. After 4-8 hr of recovery, regions of confluent astrocytes separated by lanes devoid of cells were easily located. Electrical stimulation was used to initiate calcium waves. Waves crossed narrow (<120 μm) cell-free lanes in 15 of 36 cases, but failed to cross lanes wider than 120 μm in eight of eight cases. The probability of crossing narrow lanes was not correlated with the distance from the stimulation site, suggesting that cells along the path of the calcium wave release the extracellular messenger(s). Calculated velocity across the acellular lanes was not significantly different from velocity through regions of confluent astrocytes. Focal superfusion altered both the extent and the direction of calcium waves in confluent regions. These data indicate that extracellular signals may play a role in astrocyte-astrocyte communication in situ.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13268-13273
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 12 1996


  • astrocytes
  • calcium waves
  • extracellular signal
  • glia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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