Astroglial Vesicular Trafficking in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Academic Article


  • The neocortex represents one of the largest estates of the human brain. This structure comprises ~30–40 billions of neurones and even more of non-neuronal cells. Astrocytes, highly heterogeneous homoeostatic glial cells, are fundamental for housekeeping of the brain and contribute to information processing in neuronal networks. Gray matter astrocytes tightly enwrap synapses, contact blood vessels and, naturally, are also in contact with the extracellular space, where convection of fluid takes place. Thus astrocytes receive signals from several distinct extracellular domains and can get excited by numerous mechanisms, which regulate cytosolic concentration of second messengers, such as Ca2+ and cAMP. Excited astrocytes often secrete diverse substances (generally referred to as gliosignalling molecules) that include classical neurotransmitters such as glutamate and ATP or neuromodulators such as d-serine or neuropeptides. Astrocytic secretion occurs through several mechanisms: by diffusion through membrane channels, by translocation via plasmalemmal transporters or by vesicular exocytosis. Vesicular release of gliosignalling molecules appears fundamentally similar to that operating in neurones, since it depends on the SNARE proteins-dependent merger of the vesicle membrane with the plasmalemma. However, the coupling between the stimulus and astroglial vesicular secretion is at least one order of magnitude slower than that in neurones. Here we review mechanisms of astrocytic excitability and the molecular, anatomical and physiological properties of vesicular apparatus mediating the release of gliosignalling molecules in health and in the neurodegenerative pathology.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zorec R; Parpura V; Verkhratsky A
  • Start Page

  • 905
  • End Page

  • 917
  • Volume

  • 42
  • Issue

  • 3