Glial cells in (patho)physiology

Vladimir Parpura, Michael T. Heneka, Vedrana Montana, Stéphane H.R. Oliet, Arne Schousboe, Philip G. Haydon, Randy F. Stout, David C. Spray, Andreas Reichenbach, Thomas Pannicke, Milos Pekny, Marcela Pekna, Robert Zorec, Alexei Verkhratsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

445 Scopus citations


Neuroglial cells define brain homeostasis and mount defense against pathological insults. Astroglia regulate neurogenesis and development of brain circuits. In the adult brain, astrocytes enter into intimate dynamic relationship with neurons, especially at synaptic sites where they functionally form the tripartite synapse. At these sites, astrocytes regulate ion and neurotransmitter homeostasis, metabolically support neurons and monitor synaptic activity; one of the readouts of the latter manifests in astrocytic intracellular Ca 2+ signals. This form of astrocytic excitability can lead to release of chemical transmitters via Ca 2+-dependent exocytosis. Once in the extracellular space, gliotransmitters can modulate synaptic plasticity and cause changes in behavior. Besides these physiological tasks, astrocytes are fundamental for progression and outcome of neurological diseases. In Alzheimer's disease, for example, astrocytes may contribute to the etiology of this disorder. Highly lethal glial-derived tumors use signaling trickery to coerce normal brain cells to assist tumor invasiveness. This review not only sheds new light on the brain operation in health and disease, but also points to many unknowns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-27
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • astrocytes
  • disease
  • health
  • metabolism
  • neurogenesis
  • signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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