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Alterations of energy metabolism and of astrocyte number/function in ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) have been reported in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients and may contribute to MDD pathophysiology. We recently developed a mouse model of MDD mimicking these alterations. We knocked down the astroglial glutamate transporters GLAST and GLT-1 in infralimbic cortex (IL, rodent equivalent of vACC) using small interfering RNA (siRNA). GLAST and GLT-1 siRNA microinfusion in IL evoked a depressive-like phenotype, associated with a reduced serotonergic function and reduced forebrain BDNF expression. Neither effect occurred after siRNA application in the adjacent prelimbic cortex (PrL), thus emphasizing the critical role of vACC/IL in MDD pathogenesis. Here we examined the cellular/network basis of the changes induced in IL using intracellular recordings of layer V pyramidal neurons from mice microinjected with siRNA 24h before. We analyzed (i) the electrophysiological characteristics of neurons; (ii) the synaptic transmission properties, by monitoring miniature, spontaneous and evoked EPSCs, and (iii) the gliotransmission, by monitoring slow inward currents (SICs), mediated by astrocytic glutamate release and activation of extra-synaptic NMDA receptors. GLT-1 and GLAST knockdown led to a more depolarized membrane potential and increased action potential firing rate of layer V pyramidal neurons, and enhanced excitatory synaptic transmission, as shown by the enhanced amplitude/frequency of spontaneous EPSCs. Gliotransmission was also increased, as indicated by the enhanced SIC amplitude/frequency. Hence, the depressive-like phenotype is associated with IL hyperactivity, likely leading to an excessive top-down inhibitory control of serotonergic activity through IL-midbrain descending pathways.

06/06/2019 | Acta Neuropathol   IF 18.2
Tau is required for progressive synaptic and memory deficits in a transgenic mouse model of alpha-synucleinopathy.
Singh B, Covelo A, Martell-Martinez H, Nanclares C, Sherman MA, Okematti E, Meints J, Teravskis PJ, Gallardo C, Savonenko AV, Benneyworth MA, Lesne SE, Liao D, Araque A, Lee MK

Parkinson's disease dementia (PDD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are clinically and neuropathologically highly related alpha-synucleinopathies that collectively constitute the second leading cause of neurodegenerative dementias. Genetic and neuropathological studies directly implicate alpha-synuclein (alphaS) abnormalities in PDD and DLB pathogenesis. However, it is currently unknown how alphaS abnormalities contribute to memory loss, particularly since forebrain neuronal loss in PDD and DLB is less severe than in Alzheimer's disease. Previously, we found that familial Parkinson's disease-linked human mutant A53T alphaS causes aberrant localization of the microtubule-associated protein tau to postsynaptic spines in neurons, leading to postsynaptic deficits. Thus, we directly tested if the synaptic and memory deficits in a mouse model of alpha-synucleinopathy (TgA53T) are mediated by tau. TgA53T mice exhibit progressive memory deficits associated with postsynaptic deficits in the absence of obvious neuropathological and neurodegenerative changes in the hippocampus. Significantly, removal of endogenous mouse tau expression in TgA53T mice (TgA53T/mTau(-/-)), achieved by mating TgA53T mice to mouse tau-knockout mice, completely ameliorates cognitive dysfunction and concurrent synaptic deficits without affecting alphaS expression or accumulation of selected toxic alphaS oligomers. Among the known tau-dependent effects, memory deficits in TgA53T mice were associated with hippocampal circuit remodeling linked to chronic network hyperexcitability. This remodeling was absent in TgA53T/mTau(-/-) mice, indicating that postsynaptic deficits, aberrant network hyperactivity, and memory deficits are mechanistically linked. Our results directly implicate tau as a mediator of specific human mutant A53T alphaS-mediated abnormalities related to deficits in hippocampal neurotransmission and suggest a mechanism for memory impairment that occurs as a consequence of synaptic dysfunction rather than synaptic or neuronal loss. We hypothesize that these initial synaptic deficits contribute to network hyperexcitability which, in turn, exacerbate cognitive dysfunction. Our results indicate that these synaptic changes present potential therapeutic targets for amelioration of memory deficits in alpha-synucleinopathies.

06/2019 | Glia   IF 5.8
Gi/o protein-coupled receptors inhibit neurons but activate astrocytes and stimulate gliotransmission.
Durkee CA, Covelo A, Lines J, Kofuji P, Aguilar J, Araque A

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) play key roles in intercellular signaling in the brain. Their effects on cellular function have been largely studied in neurons, but their functional consequences on astrocytes are less known. Using both endogenous and chemogenetic approaches with DREADDs, we have investigated the effects of Gq and Gi/o GPCR activation on astroglial Ca(2+) -based activity, gliotransmitter release, and the functional consequences on neuronal electrical activity. We found that while Gq GPCR activation led to cellular activation in both neurons and astrocytes, Gi/o GPCR activation led to cellular inhibition in neurons and cellular activation in astrocytes. Astroglial activation by either Gq or Gi/o protein-mediated signaling stimulated gliotransmitter release, which increased neuronal excitability. Additionally, activation of Gq and Gi/o DREADDs in vivo increased astrocyte Ca(2+) activity and modified neuronal network electrical activity. Present results reveal additional complexity of the signaling consequences of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in astroglia-neuron network operation and brain function.

07/11/2018 | J Neurosci   IF 6.1
A53T Mutant Alpha-Synuclein Induces Tau-Dependent Postsynaptic Impairment Independently of Neurodegenerative Changes.
Teravskis PJ, Covelo A, Miller EC, Singh B, Martell-Martinez HA, Benneyworth MA, Gallardo C, Oxnard BR, Araque A, Lee MK, Liao D

Abnormalities in alpha-synuclein are implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). Because alpha-synuclein is highly concentrated within presynaptic terminals, presynaptic dysfunction has been proposed as a potential pathogenic mechanism. Here, we report novel, tau-dependent, postsynaptic deficits caused by A53T mutant alpha-synuclein, which is linked to familial PD. We analyzed synaptic activity in hippocampal slices and cultured hippocampal neurons from transgenic mice of either sex expressing human WT, A53T, and A30P alpha-synuclein. Increased alpha-synuclein expression leads to decreased spontaneous synaptic vesicle release regardless of genotype. However, only those neurons expressing A53T alpha-synuclein exhibit postsynaptic dysfunction, including decreased miniature postsynaptic current amplitude and decreased AMPA to NMDA receptor current ratio. We also found that long-term potentiation and spatial learning were impaired by A53T alpha-synuclein expression. Mechanistically, postsynaptic dysfunction requires glycogen synthase kinase 3beta-mediated tau phosphorylation, tau mislocalization to dendritic spines, and calcineurin-dependent AMPA receptor internalization. Previous studies reveal that human A53T alpha-synuclein has a high aggregation potential, which may explain the mutation's unique capacity to induce postsynaptic deficits. However, patients with sporadic PD with severe tau pathology are also more likely to have early onset cognitive decline. Our results here show a novel, functional role for tau: mediating the effects of alpha-synuclein on postsynaptic signaling. Therefore, the unraveled tau-mediated signaling cascade may contribute to the pathogenesis of dementia in A53T alpha-synuclein-linked familial PD cases, as well as some subgroups of PD cases with extensive tau pathology.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Here, we report mutation-specific postsynaptic deficits that are caused by A53T mutant alpha-synuclein, which is linked to familial Parkinson's disease (PD). The overexpression of WT, A53T, or A30P human alpha-synuclein leads to decreased spontaneous synaptic vesicle release. However, only those neurons expressing A53T alpha-synuclein exhibit tau phosphorylation-dependent postsynaptic dysfunction, which is characterized by decreased miniature postsynaptic current amplitude and decreased AMPA to NMDA receptor current ratio. The mutation-specific postsynaptic effects caused by human A53T alpha-synuclein will help us better understand the neurobiological basis of this specific form of familial PD. The differential effects of exogenous human WT, A53T, A30P, and E46K alpha-synuclein on glutamatergic synaptic responses will help to explain the clinical heterogeneity of sporadic and familial PD.

28/06/2018 | Cell   IF 36.2
Stimulating Astrocytes to Remember.
Covelo A, Araque A

Adamsky et al. show that stimulation of astrocytes potentiates synaptic transmission and enhances behavioral performance in memory tasks. These results demonstrate that astrocytes are actively involved in synaptic physiology and brain function and lend further support to the idea that animal behavior results from the coordinated activity of neurons and astrocytes.

Accumulating evidence indicates that astrocytes are actively involved in brain function by regulating synaptic activity and plasticity. Different gliotransmitters, such as glutamate, ATP, GABA or D-serine, released form astrocytes have been shown to induce different forms of synaptic regulation. However, whether a single astrocyte may release different gliotransmitters is unknown. Here we show that mouse hippocampal astrocytes activated by endogenous (neuron-released endocannabinoids or GABA) or exogenous (single astrocyte Ca(2+) uncaging) stimuli modulate putative single CA3-CA1 hippocampal synapses. The astrocyte-mediated synaptic modulation was biphasic and consisted of an initial glutamate-mediated potentiation followed by a purinergic-mediated depression of neurotransmitter release. The temporal dynamic properties of this biphasic synaptic regulation depended on the firing frequency and duration of the neuronal activity that stimulated astrocytes. Present results indicate that single astrocytes can decode neuronal activity and, in response, release distinct gliotransmitters to differentially regulate neurotransmission at putative single synapses.

2017 | Front Cell Neurosci   IF 3.9
Synapse-Specific Regulation Revealed at Single Synapses Is Concealed When Recording Multiple Synapses.
Lines J, Covelo A, Gomez R, Liu L, Araque A

Synaptic transmission and its activity-dependent modulation, known as synaptic plasticity, are fundamental processes in nervous system function. Neurons may receive thousands of synaptic contacts, but synaptic regulation may occur only at individual or discrete subsets of synapses, which may have important consequences on the spatial extension of the modulation of synaptic information. Moreover, while several electrophysiological methods are used to assess synaptic transmission at different levels of observation, i.e., through local field potential and individual whole-cell recordings, their experimental limitations to detect synapse-specific modulation is poorly defined. We have investigated how well-known synapse-specific short-term plasticity, where some synapses are regulated and others left unregulated, mediated by astrocytes and endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling can be assessed at different observational levels. Using hippocampal slices, we have combined local field potential and whole-cell recordings of CA3-CA1 synaptic activity evoked by Schaffer collateral stimulation of either multiple or single synapses through bulk or minimal stimulation, respectively, to test the ability to detect short-term synaptic changes induced by eCB signaling. We also developed a mathematical model assuming a bimodal distribution of regulated and unregulated synapses based on realistic experimental data to simulate physiological results and to predict the experimental requirements of the different recording methods to detect discrete changes in subsets of synapses. We show that eCB-induced depolarization-induced suppression of excitation (DSE) and astrocyte-mediated synaptic potentiation can be observed when monitoring single or few synapses, but are statistically concealed when recording the activity of a large number of synapses. These results indicate that the electrophysiological methodology is critical to properly assess synaptic changes occurring in subsets of synapses, and they suggest that relevant synapse-specific regulatory phenomena may be experimentally undetected but may have important implications in the spatial extension of synaptic plasticity phenomena.

26/05/2016 | Neuroscience   IF 3.2
Lateral regulation of synaptic transmission by astrocytes.
Covelo A, Araque A

Fifteen years ago the concept of the 'tripartite synapse' was proposed to conceptualize the functional view that astrocytes are integral elements of synapses. The signaling exchange between astrocytes and neurons within the tripartite synapse results in the synaptic regulation of synaptic transmission and plasticity through an autocrine form of communication. However, recent evidence indicates that the astrocyte synaptic regulation is not restricted to the active tripartite synapse but can be manifested through astrocyte signaling at synapses relatively distant from active synapses, a process termed lateral astrocyte synaptic regulation. This phenomenon resembles the classical heterosynaptic modulation but is mechanistically different because it involves astrocytes and its properties critically depend on the morphological and functional features of astrocytes. Therefore, the functional concept of the tripartite synapse as a fundamental unit must be expanded to include the interaction between tripartite synapses. Through lateral synaptic regulation, astrocytes serve as an active processing bridge for synaptic interaction and crosstalk between synapses with no direct neuronal connectivity, supporting the idea that neural network function results from the coordinated activity of astrocytes and neurons.

17/09/2014 | J Neurosci   IF 6.1
Structural and functional plasticity of astrocyte processes and dendritic spine interactions.
Perez-Alvarez A, Navarrete M, Covelo A, Martin ED, Araque A

Experience-dependent plasticity of synaptic transmission, which represents the cellular basis of learning, is accompanied by morphological changes in dendritic spines. Astrocytic processes are intimately associated with synapses, structurally enwrapping and functionally interacting with dendritic spines and synaptic terminals by responding to neurotransmitters and by releasing gliotransmitters that regulate synaptic function. While studies on structural synaptic plasticity have focused on neuronal elements, the structural-functional plasticity of astrocyte-neuron relationships remains poorly known. Here we show that stimuli inducing hippocampal synaptic LTP enhance the motility of synapse-associated astrocytic processes. This motility increase is relatively rapid, starting <5 min after the stimulus, and reaching a maximum in 20-30 min (t(1/2) = 10.7 min). It depends on presynaptic activity and requires G-protein-mediated Ca(2+) elevations in astrocytes. The structural remodeling is accompanied by changes in the ability of astrocytes to regulate synaptic transmission. Sensory stimuli that increase astrocyte Ca(2+) also induce similar plasticity in mouse somatosensory cortex in vivo. Therefore, structural relationships between astrocytic processes and dendritic spines undergo activity-dependent changes with metaplasticity consequences on synaptic regulation. These results reveal novel forms of synaptic plasticity based on structural-functional changes of astrocyte-neuron interactions.