Astrocytic actions on extrasynaptic neuronal currents

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In the last few decades, knowledge about astrocytic functions has significantly increased. It was demonstrated that astrocytes are not passive elements of the central nervous system (CNS), but active partners of neurons. There is a growing body of knowledge about the calcium excitability of astrocytes, the actions of different gliotransmitters and their release mechanisms, as well as the participation of astrocytes in the regulation of synaptic functions and their contribution to synaptic plasticity. However, astrocytic functions are even more complex than being a partner of the “tripartite synapse,” as they can influence extrasynaptic neuronal currents either by releasing substances or regulating ambient neurotransmitter levels. Several types of currents or changes of membrane potential with different kinetics and via different mechanisms can be elicited by astrocytic activity. Astrocyte-dependent phasic or tonic, inward or outward currents were described in several brain areas. Such currents, together with the synaptic actions of astrocytes, can contribute to neuromodulatory mechanisms, neurosensory and -secretory processes, cortical oscillatory activity, memory, and learning or overall neuronal excitability. This mini-review is an attempt to give a brief summary of astrocyte-dependent extrasynaptic neuronal currents and their possible functional significance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number474
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - Dec 9 2015



  • Astrocyte-neuron interactions
  • Gliotransmitters
  • Slow inward current
  • Slow outward current
  • Tonic current

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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