Bi-directional communication between neurons and astrocytes modulates spinal motor circuits

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Evidence suggests that astrocytes are not merely supportive cells in the nervous system but may actively participate in the control of neural circuits underlying cognition and behavior. In this study, we examined the role of astrocytes within the motor circuitry of the mammalian spinal cord. Pharmacogenetic manipulation of astrocytic activity in isolated spinal cord preparations obtained from neonatal mice revealed astrocyte-derived, adenosinergic modulation of the frequency of rhythmic output generated by the locomotor central pattern generator (CPG) network. Live Ca2+ imaging demonstrated increased activity in astrocytes during locomotor-related output and in response to the direct stimulation of spinal neurons. Finally, astrocytes were found to respond to neuronally-derived glutamate in a metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) dependent manner, which in turn drives astrocytic modulation of the locomotor network. Our work identifies bi-directional signaling mechanisms between neurons and astrocytes underlying modulatory feedback control of motor circuits, which may act to constrain network output within optimal ranges for movement.
Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2020


  • Astrocyte
  • Spinal cord
  • Locomotion
  • Neuromodulation
  • mGlu receptor5


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